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G. Tïssol: Polyphemus and His Audiences45 Polyphemus and his Audiences: Narrative and Power in Ovid's Metamorphoses Garth Tissol I BeyondDisengagement To what extent the aesthetic enjoyment of the Metamorphoses includes emotional and intellectual engagement on the part of its readers is a question on which the critical representatives of those readers do not agree. Is the work engaging, or does it encourage the "distance" and "detachment" claimed for it by some? This is an important question, for the answer one gives to it bears directly upon one's description of the work's nature and evaluation of its success. I propose, in the following pages, to describe the rhetorical structure ofone typical narrative section of the Metamorphoses, and to illustrate some aspects of its stylistic and tonal character: its disruptiveness and unpredictability, its purposeful tendency first to develop expectations in the audience and then thwart them, its deliberate aim to induce a loss ofnarrative bearings on the part of the audience. The impact of such a work upon its readers may well be different in nature from that of narratives more sustained in style—narratives that gratify the plot-expectations they have encouraged and maintain the stylistic and tonal decorums they have first established. But careful examination of Ovidian narrative structures will illustrate their affective function to promote and encourage engagement no less intense and powerful, and no less contributive to the meaning of the work.1 1 That the "affective function" of narrative structures has a place in critical discourse is the contribution of reader-response critics, of whom W. Iser, H.R. Jauss, and S. Fish may be singled out as particularly influential. See, for example, Iser, 7"Ae Act ofReading (Munich 1976; Engl, trans. Baltimore 1978); Jauss, Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics (Munich 1977; Engl, trans. Minneapolis 1982); Fish, "Literature In the Reader: Affective Stylistics," New Literary History 1 (1970) 123-62; rpt. in J.P. Tompkins, ed., Reader-Response Criticism (Baltimore 1980) 70-100. For Ovidian studies especially valuable is F. Verducci, Ovid's Toyshop of the Heart: Epistulae Heroidum (Princeton 1985); see esp. 22-32. Works referred to by author's last name are F. Borner, P. Ovidios Naso, Metamorphosen, Wissenschaftliche Kommentare zu lateinischen und griechischen Schriftsteller, vol. 1- (Heidelberg 1969- ); H. Dörrie, "Der verliebte Kyklop," AU 12.3 (1969) 75-100; G.K. Galinsky. Ovid's Metamorphoses: An Introduction to the Basic Aspects (Berkeley 1975); Haupt-Ehwald = M. Haupt, O. Kom, H.J. Müller, R. Ehwald, P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphosen, vol. 1 (Books 1-7), vol. 2 46Syllecta Classica 2 (1990) Let us begin with some views on emotional engagement, for the most widely divergent responses result when readers of the Metamorphoses evaluate the nature of its emotional impact upon them—if any. Our earliest writer on Ovid, Seneca the Elder, associates him with the schools of rhetoric in which he was trained, and thereby with the potentially useful, potentially dangerous power to persuade.2 Among the moderns, EJ. Kenney is noteworthy in his emphasis on Ovid's power to move, asserting that "direct emotional appeal to the reader" is a quality "in which Ovid excels," and describing Ovid as "an emotional engineer."3 By contrast, for G.K. Galinsky "detachment" and "distance" define the characteristic relation of Ovid's reader to the text: the "intent" of Ovid's narrative is "to let the reader be a critical observer and not to let him be naively or romantically drawn into the fictitious story, because that would lessen the sophisticated, intellectual pleasure which Ovid wants us to derive from his mythological storytelling." Consistent with this perspective, the self-consciously fictitious nature of Ovid's mythological subjects provides "the objective basis for his detached attitude that he wants the reader to adopt also."4 Galinsky's distanced "intellectual pleasure" may perhaps be the experience of some readers. But it is highly unlikely that Ovid "intended" it as an ideal response to his work, and there is much to suggest that he wants us "drawn in," the sophisticated no less than the naive. I wish to re-assert the older view of Ovid as a writer of rhetorical power, and also to go...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5157
Print ISSN
1040-3612
Pages
pp. 45-58
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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