BMCR 2020.10.56

Ovidio 2017: prospettive per il terzo millennio: atti del Convegno Internazionale (Sulmona, 3/6 aprile 2017)

, , Ovidio 2017: prospettive per il terzo millennio: atti del Convegno Internazionale (Sulmona, 3/6 aprile 2017). Teramo: Ricerche & Redazioni, 2017. Pp. 660. ISBN 9788885431164. €70,00.

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Several academic conferences marked the two-thousandth anniversary of Ovid’s death in 17 CE—a notional date, since we are not certain when he died.[1] This impressive volume gathers the papers delivered at the poet’s birthplace in April 2017 for what sounds like a grand event. The participants were welcomed by both the mayor of Sulmona and the president of Italy(!). Collected here are 24 papers, mostly by Italian scholars, with three contributions from the UK, and one each from Germany, Canada, and the US (authors and titles are listed at the end of the review). It is a deluxe edition, richly illustrated with color plates. Overall, the book exemplifies well the fruitful and varied proliferation of Ovidian studies in our era and more than delivers on the subtitle’s promise of rewarding perspectives for the next millennium.

Issues of reception loom large. Philip Hardie’s wide-ranging essay on bodies in Ovid’s poetry, from Amores to Metamorphoses to exilic letters, shows among much else how Shakespeare, Petrarch, and especially Renaissance paintings help to illuminate central Ovidian concerns of nature vs. art, personification, and corporeal texts. The reception of Ovid in the ninth century is the topic of Richard Tarrant’s contribution, which explores anthologizing, excerpting, and the creative reuse of Ovidian material by leading scholars and poets—e.g. rewriting Ovid’s Fama, rewording potentially offensive phrases, Corinna’s physical perfection becomes that of Charlemagne. Marco Buonocore presents a number of miniature illustrations found in Ovidian manuscripts held in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. He considers these in the context of text, comment, and gloss, and adumbrates the important project of a census of all illustrated Ovidian manuscripts with the goal of comprehending their history more fully. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill argues against the view, recently expounded by Peter Knox, that wall-paintings in Pompeii that share mythological scenes with Ovid’s Metamorphoses are influenced by the poem. In his reading, the images do not recall the texts that closely, and it is more likely that the painters knew the episodes not directly from Ovid, but from the intermediary source of pantomime. Through the theoretical lenses of intermediality and screenology Massimo Fusillo reviews some receptions of Ovid on screen from just yesterday: from video games and video art (featuring Narcissus in particular) to two films of 2014 (Honoré’s Métamorphoses and Yariv’s Amori e metamorfosi). Nicola Gardini examines twentieth-century Ovidian works by four Anglophone authors from different countries (Zimmerman, Hughes, Malouf, and Heaney). ‘Actaeon in London,’ by Alessandro Schiesaro, is one of the collection’s finest papers. He focuses on the fascinating multimedia conversation staged at the National Gallery’s 2012 exhibit which reunited a set of Ovidian paintings by Titian, but brings in as well Ted Hughes’ earlier Tales from Ovid. In what to my mind is the most rewarding kind of reception study, Schiesaro shows throughout how the paintings, installations, and contemporary poetry throw light on Ovid’s Actaeon—with regard to guilt, gaze, animal instinct, and Ovid’s exilic identity.

Every major work receives attention. Luciano Landolfi traces throughout the Amores the motif of transition to elegy from (or to) another genre, and its rich literary background (Callimachus, Bion, Horace, Propertius). In a related paper, Mario Labate masterfully analyzes how in his erotic poems (Amores and especially Ars amatoria) Ovid shows himself to be ‘the first post-generic poet of Latin literature.’ The poet does this by redefining the ideal woman of previous Latin elegy and otherwise adopting perspectives and presentational modes from more ‘realistic’ genres like comedy, satire, mime, and diatribe. Rosalba Dimundo discusses female greed in the erotic elegies, not along the lines of Sharon James’ gendered readings in Roman social and economic contexts, but as a literary topos with varying applications and focalizations (lena, poet-lover, teacher of love). In one of the few polemical pieces, Niklas Holzberg criticizes Anglophone scholars for neglecting some European contributions on the Amores, particularly that of Gerlinde Bretzigheimer, and the consequences in perpetuating a biographical approach. Federica Bessone investigates how the abandoned heroines of the Heroides become a powerful means of criticizing the literary tradition of the hero by offering an alternative voice from a position of marginality. In several trenchant case studies, she demonstrates how the Ovidian letters go beyond the Euripidean Medea and expand upon the Catullan Ariadne; most importantly, Bessone convincingly follows up the impact of this gendered disequilibrium on the ironic treatment of heroes in the Ars (especially Book 3) and Metamorphoses (e.g. Theseus, Aeneas, Achilles, and Ulysses). Roy Gibson sheds new light on the Heroides by taking them seriously as a collection of letters against the background of other such ancient collections. From this perspective, the interpolation of passages and poems in the manuscript tradition appears less problematic, in view of the infiltration of spurious letters in genuine corpora. The editorial context of Cicero’s Ad familiares, in particular, offers a productive comparandum for reconsidering principles of ordering in the Heroides and the inclusion of replies in the ‘double’ Heroides.

Approaches to the Metamorposes are varied. Alison Keith ranges over the poem in discussing Ovid’s use of Virgil’s Georgics—from appropriation of programmatic language in the proem and epilog (cf. G. 3 init. and epilog) to Deucalion and Pyrrha (theodicy), the plague in Met. 7 (G. 3), Orpheus, and Pomona’s fertile garden (poetics and erotics of grafting). Francesca Ghedini and Giulia Salvo survey the role of plants and gardens in Ovid’s ‘verdant imaginary’ in the Metamorphoses and Fasti. Gianluigi Baldo offers a fresh look at family relations, and most strikingly the linkages between Procne, Ino, and Medea. Ovid’s tendentious reading (in Metamorphoses 14) of Virgil’s account of the war in Latium is the subject of Sergio Casali’s insightful paper, which draws out larger significance from selective details: e.g. the juxtaposition of contrastive allusions parodically mimics the Virgilian narrative’s fragmentation of points of view, here those of Jupiter and Turnus on the latter’s furor; Ovid jokingly points up Juno’s multiple reconciliations in the Aeneid by multiplying them further; memory of the Virgilian Jupiter’s promise to immortalize Aeneas is erased for the Ovidian Venus and Mars; and more.

Elena Merli advances understanding of rural festivals in the Fasti via analysis of the first two featured in the poem, which are thereby imbued with programmatic importance. With the Feriae Sementivae Ovid dramatizes the country rituals of the present, where, through intertextual interplay with Virgil’s Georgics and Tibullus, profit can be presented without apology and the farmer’s peace is validated in contradistinction to the world of the soldier. The Fornacalia, on the other hand, represents the countryside of the past, where agricultural and military activities coexist in imaginary archaic times. The dialectic between these two perspectives throughout the work is animated, too, by engagement with Augustan ideology. Fabio Stok contributes a learned discussion of the sprawling treatment of the Lupercalia in Fasti 2. He focuses in particular on the varied and contradictory sources at Ovid’s disposal—Evander vs. Romulus, Greek vs. Roman, Augustan ‘vulgate’ of Livy and Virgil vs. the Fabian tradition—and on how the poet organizes them into a coherent, if not completely harmonious, structure. Andrea Giardina and Edoardo Galfré treat Italy in Ovid’s works, especially the Fasti, where one can see a dynamic between the claims for Trojan and Greek heritage (Virgil vs. Dionysius) as also between primitive Italian bellicosity and Greek science. Also relevant is the triumphalist perspective of the Res Gestae, which leads to the vantage point of Ovid’s exilic poems, where ‘Italian’ becomes a label for the Roman empire and the imperial family. Oronzo Pecere considers how Ovid articulates reading and his own readership against the background of book-production, especially in the Tristia. Ovidian panegyric in the Epistulae ex Ponto is explored by Luigi Galasso, who takes his point of departure from the claim of novitas with the alleged poem on Augustus in Getic. He explicates several instances of innovative Ovidian praise-poetry in the light of Hellenistic panegyrics (Callimachus, Posidonius, Eratosthenes) and shows how Ovid from exile implicates the laudandus in obligations, thereby exemplifying how to negotiate with power.

International collaborative volumes like this one were published to celebrate the last great Ovidian anniversary, the bimillennium of his birth, as Hardie acknowledges near the outset and Paolo Fedeli in concluding remarks (Ovidiana, ed. N. I. Herescu, Paris 1958; Atti del convegno internazionale ovidiano, Rome 1959). To look back at those collections now is to glimpse the awakening of serious literary study of Ovid in the modern era, which has blossomed into full flower today; but they also invite reflection on the transformation of Ovidian studies since then, which bear fruit nowadays often from attention to areas like gender, power, desire, intertextuality, and reception. Witness Gianpiero Rosati’s dense, illuminating paper, ‘Ovidio e l’invenzione del corpo femminile,’ which dovetails with several other contributions. Through much of his poetry, starting with the key touchstone text Amores 1.5, Ovid represents the female body as an icon and object of desire, combining esthetic appreciation and erotic stimuli that invite the male reader’s voyeuristic collusion. But he also broadens horizons by exploring beauty as an instrument of power. Among Ovid’s contributions in this sphere is to have anticipated Girard’s theory of erotic desire as a product of imitation, a triangulation of subject, object, and mediator; and the female body as a driver of tales in the Metamorphoses likewise looks forward to such a phenomenon in modern European narratives, as P. Brooks underlines in his study Body Work.

All in all, Ovidio 2017 augurs well for continued progress in understanding Ovid from multiple angles, from basic work evaluating new materials to reinterpretation with new lenses.

Authors and titles

 P. Hardie, Incarnazioni ovidiane
R. Tarrant, Ovid in the Aetas Vergiliana: on the Afterlife of Ovid in the Ninth Century
L. Landolfi, Μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος: scelte biotiche e interdetti negli Amores
N. Holzberg, Gli Amores di Ovidio negli studi in lingua inglese del 2003–2016: la filologia classica nella sua Splendid Isolation
R. Dimundo, Qui dabit, ille tibi magno sit maior Homero. Persistenza di un topos elegiaco nella precettistica ovidiana
M. Buonocore, Forme e tipologie della miniatura nei codici ovidiani della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
M. Labate, L’Ars Amatoria e i confini dell’elegia
F. Bessone, Storie di eroi, scritture di eroine. Storia e critica letteraria nelle Heroides
R. Gibson, The Epistulae Heroidum and the Epistolographical Tradition
A. Keith, Reception of Vergil’s Georgics in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
F. Ghedini, G. Salvo, Fiori, alberi, giardini: Ovidio e l’Ars Topiaria
A. Wallace-Hadrill, Ovid and Mythological Painting in Pompeii
G. Rosati, Ovidio e l’invenzione del corpo femminile
G. Baldo, Relazioni familiari nelle Metamorfosi di Ovidio
S. Casali, Ovidio, Virgilio e i Troiani nel Lazio (Met. 14.445–608)
O. Pecere, Libro e lettura nella poesia di Ovidio
E. Merli, Feste rurali e mondo contadino nei Fasti: fra arcaismo e modernità
F. Stok, Alla ricerca dei Lupercalia
L. Galasso, Poesia encomiastica nelle Epistulae ex Ponto
N. Gardini, Quattro ovidiani di lingua inglese
M. Fusillo, Ovidio sugli schermi del nuovo millennio
A. Schiesaro, Actaeon in London: Heaney, Hughes, Shawcross, Wallinger
A. Giardina, E. Galfré, L’Italia di Ovidio
P. Fedeli, Un bilancio conclusivo
C. Strinati, Il Narciso del Caravaggio (Scheda critica sull’opera in copertina)


[1] Also published so far are: Luis Rivero García et al. (eds.), Vivam! Estudios sobre la obra de Ovidio. Studies on Ovid’s Poetry (Huelva 2018); Luigi Galasso (ed.), La fortuna di Ovidio (Milan 2018) = Aevum antiquum n. s. 18; and Federica Bessone and Sabrina Stroppa (eds.), Lettori latini e italiani di Ovidio (Pisa and Rome 2019) = Quaderni della Rivista di cultura classica e medioevale 18.