BMCR 1997.11.05

1997.11.05, Enjoinder and Argument in Ovid’s Remedia Amoris. Hermes Einzelschriften, Heft 77.

, Enjoinder and argument in Ovid's Remedia amoris. Hermes. Einzelschriften, Heft 77. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1997. 119 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 9783515070782

In the current revival of interest in Ovid, it is the later works, Metamorphoses, Fasti and the exilic poetry, which have been the prime focus of interest. Although two excellent monographs have appeared in the last twelve years or so on Ovid’s didactic poems, those of Myerowitz (1985) and Sharrock (1994), we have had no books on Remedia Amoris. However, readers of Myerowitz and Sharrock, that is readers with an interest in those issues which are currently central to the study of Ovid’s erotodidactic works, questions of gender, politics and genre, will find this work disappointing. In his Introduction Jones observes that ‘To state that a didactic piece, such as the Remedia Amoris, is constructed out of authoritative advice and attendant arguments for the efficacy of that advice borders on the tautological’ (p. 11). And he is right. But how Ovid does this is the book’s subject. Jones’s aim is ‘to demonstrate the precise nature of the rhetoric of Ovidian elegiac didaxis as displayed in the E&As [enjoinders plus arguments] of the Remedia Amoris. My hope is that this investigation, while it may not radically alter one’s interpretation of the Remedia Amoris, will provide insight into the structure and style of Ovid’s didactic poetry which may increase one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the piece’ (p. 11). Jones’s aim is modest, perhaps too modest for a book-length essay.

Chapter 1 is devoted to Enjoinders. This chapter is descriptive and concludes with a taxonomy in which enjoinders are classified by form (imperative, subjunctive, gerundival, general statement, interrogative, future) and organizational pattern (genus-species, concrete-metaphor, oppositional, cause-effect, enjoinder + qualification, ring composition).

Chapter 2 is devoted to Proofs. ‘The major function of Proofs within the RA, we are told, ‘is to argue for the efficacy of Enjoinders’ (p. 36). We are also told that ‘the majority of Proofs in the RA are Gnomic in nature’ (p. 36) and may be either ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate’ (p. 38).

Chapter 3 concerns Exempla. These are divided into three categories: ex rebus humanis, ex natura and ex animalibus. It is in this chapter, and in this chapter alone, that Jones engages with the contemporary debate on Ovid, because in lines 153-158 Ovid urges the lover to become a soldier and fight the Parthians. Now Jones raises the question of whether we should follow those who perceive examples of this kind as ‘satirical barbs aimed at Augustan policies’ (p. 46). Jones decides that we should not on the grounds that ‘Ovid’s didaxis operates in a universe where there is the basic comedic assumption that amatory concerns are paramount and all other concerns must be made subservient to them’ (p. 47). This closely resembles the position adopted by Gordon Williams in Change and Decline (Berkeley, 1978) 70-83. (The book, important though it is, is not listed in the Bibliography). Jones does not consider the possibility that such an assumption might be as much political as it is comedic. (For the political character of the Ars Amatoria Alison Sharrock’s ‘Ovid and the Politics of Reading’MD 33 (1995) 97-122 is now fundamental. As Sharrock observes, ‘sex is no joke in Augustan Rome’ [p. 108]).

Chapter 4 is devoted to Promissory Terms, while Chapter 5 is devoted to Tractatio. These two chapters are also descriptive. This is a strange book to write for an author whose stated aim is to ‘increase one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the piece’. The book is laden with technical jargon. It has little to say that is of interest to the vast majority of Ovid’s late twentieth century readers. Even if it did, they would not be able to understand the book because passages in Greek and Latin are not translated.