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The Image of the Poet in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Barbara Pavlock

Publication Year: 2009

Barbara Pavlock unmasks major figures in Ovid’s Metamorphoses as surrogates for his narrative persona, highlighting the conflicted revisionist nature of the Metamorphoses. Although Ovid ostensibly validates traditional customs and institutions, instability is in fact a defining feature of both the core epic values and his own poetics.
    The Image of the Poet explores issues central to Ovid’s poetics—the status of the image, the generation of plots, repetition, opposition between refined and inflated epic style, the reliability of the narrative voice, and the interrelation of rhetoric and poetry. The work explores the constructed author and complements recent criticism focusing on the reader in the text.

2009 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Ovid’s Metamorphoses has played a major role in my intellectual life for more than a decade, sustaining me in painful as well as pleasant times. My understanding of this protean work has been deepened not only by many fine recent—and older—critical studies but also by conversations on Ovid with numerous fellow classicists. This book, however, has taken...

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pp. 3-13

Ovid begins the Metamorphoses by explicitly stating his theme of transformation: “In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora” (“My spirit impels me to speak about forms changed into new bodies” [1.1–2]). The governing principle of change is manifested most obviously in the metamorphoses of human bodies to...

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1 Narcissus and Elegy

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pp. 14-37

Narcissus in Metamorphoses 3 stands out among the plethora of Ovidian characters who in various ways transgress boundaries, for unable to distinguish self from other, he makes his own image the object of desire. Having refused intimacy with all others, including the nymph Echo, Narcissus is cursed by an embittered male suitor and punished by Nemesis

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2 The Metamorphic Medea

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pp. 38-60

In the first half of book 7, Ovid recounts the story of Medea, the paradigm of the dangerous female in Greek myth. The poet could assume the reader’s familiarity with the long literary history of this formidable female. Euripides, in particular, explored the intransigent nature of this character in his tragedy detailing Medea’s horrifying...

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3 Daedalus and the Labyrinth of the Metamorphoses

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pp. 61-88

As the center of the Metamorphoses, book 8 assumes a Janus-like position, pointing both backward and forward in a complex narrative movement. First, the theme of a young woman’s disastrous passion, which we explored in chapter 2 with the myth of Medea, is revisited in Scylla’s betrayal of her father because of her infatuation with Minos (1–151). An extended section on Minos’s return to Crete follows, focusing on the myths of Daedalus (152–262). The narrative then turns to Greek...

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4 Orpheus and the Internal Narrator

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pp. 89-109

Orpheus dominates book 10, first in Ovid’s story of the death of his wife on their wedding day and his journey to Hades to retrieve her (1–147) and then as the narrator of an extended series of erotic tales (148–739). The bard in the Metamorphoses, however, seems far from the tragic figure in Vergil’s Georgics.1 Ovid represents the bard appealing to Pluto and Proserpina in the underworld with a long and oddly...

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5 Ulysses and the Arms of Achilles

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pp. 110-131

In Metamorphoses 13, Ovid continues his account of the Trojan War from book 12 with the contest of Ajax and Ulysses for the arms of Achilles, a subject popular not only with epic and tragic poets but also with professional rhetoricians in antiquity.1 Devoting nearly half of the book (1–398) to this contest, the poet sustains the traditional contrast between the two heroes: the one is brave but rather taciturn, and the other is cunning...

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pp. 132-136

After the contest for the arms, Ulysses’ direct role in the poem ends, as the poet succinctly says that the victor set sail for Lemnos to retrieve the arrows of Hercules (499–501) and then, after tersely narrating the fall of Troy, mentions that the Greek dragged Hecuba away from her children’s tombs and took her...


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pp. 137-182


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pp. 183-194


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pp. 195-215

E-ISBN-13: 9780299231439
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299231408

Publication Year: 2009