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  • Introduction
  • Eleonora Tola

This special issue is concerned with a multifaceted Ovidian topic: "The Dominant Female in Ovid's Metamorphoses: Gendered Allusions, and Gendered Receptions." The idea arose in a conversation that I had with Alden Smith at the Université Clermont Auvergne of Clermont-Ferrand in November 2017. Its first step took form in an International Conference organized by Prof. Smith in Texas at Baylor University in February 2019. That conference explored different aspects of rhetoric and freedom of speech in the Late Augustan Age, particularly in Ovid's works. In the sympotic dialogues that occur naturally enough at such a conference, we spoke also about women's freedoms in the late Augustan milieu, mostly as represented in Ovid's literary production. Out of those rich discussions resulted a plan for further work on the topic, which now focused on the panel we had proposed for the FIEC conference, held in London in July 2019.

Timing is everything: it is undeniable that 2017 and 2018 were two years in which a paradigm shift occurred vis-à-vis gender dynamics not just in the USA but in many parts of the world. Of course, in classical literature these issues are not new, since they gained strength in the field from the interesting approaches developed in feminist film studies in the 1970s.1 We thought, however, that (re)approaching the topic at this social and somewhat "global" juncture could be of interest; and it was in this particular conference, and now in this volume, we believe, that it is. Smith's work on allusion and my own stylistic and poetic work on Latin literature allowed us to enlarge such a topic to a more comprehensive examination of one of the most innovative and still challenging aspects of Ovidian writing: that of female characters gaining physical, and psychological mastery over their male objects of desire, within a clear reversal of Roman accepted gendered patterns. From a perspective [End Page 1] both literary and gendered, our FIEC panel considered some of Ovid's narratives in the Metamorphoses, not with a view to any particular theoretical reading but aiming to provoke rather lively discussion about Ovid's poetic features.

The tensions that underlie male/female relations are particularly prevalent in the Augustan Age because of the ways that moral legislation protrudes into social behaviors. Ovid "reacts" to some of those by confronting, referencing and rewriting his predecessors' texts. Cynthia Liu's article reveals how Ovid looked to his own models, in particular in the case of Hecuba's canine metamorphosis (Met. 13.481–575), where the Homeric tradition is paramount. Liu recontextualizes this female character within its epic background and shows how Ovid reshapes his sources. Salzman-Mitchell's paper addresses the disturbing topic of mother-child murder, focusing on the intricate dynamics of filicide and on how Agave and Ino's actions challenge patriarchal motherhood within unconventional womanhood, particularly within the context of Metamorphoses 3 and 4's intriguing gender reversals, and in light of earlier versions of these legendary stories. Finally, my own paper and Smith's companion piece on Ovid's story of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus in Metamorphoses 4 explore, from different sides, the ways poetic allusion can inform and enrich gendered approaches. This tale features a series of mythological, narrative and poetic connections with epic tradition. Its peculiar manipulation of motives, and its stylistic construction result in something entirely new—new, but old at the same time, something as "strange" as Hermaphroditus' own transformation.

Smith and I worked on these papers via email extensively together, so we are indebted to each other for such Ovidian reading. We agree that oscillations and degrees between new and old is what makes modern reception of ancient literature still challenging, from synchronic and diachronic viewpoints. All the contributors and I hope that this collection will support such a conviction by showing the playful interweaving between the texts of different ancient authors in the light of cultural shaping of gendered patterns.

I should like to close by thanking the Editor of Classical World, Robin Mitchell-Boyask for the opportunity to assemble this volume as a special guest editor, and the contributors to it for their articles, among...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9234
Print ISSN
0009-8418
Pages
pp. 1-3
Launched on MUSE
2021-11-24
Open Access
No
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