Scholia Reviews ns 9 (2000) 24.

Philip Hardie, Alessandro Barchiesi, and Stephen Hinds (edd.), Ovidian Transformations: Essays on Ovid's Metamorphoses and its Reception. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society Supplement 23, 1999. Pp. iii + 336. ISBN 0-9061422-0. UK£32.50.

Jo-Marie Claassen
University of Stellenbosch

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
corpora: di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)
adspirate meis primaque ab origine mundi
ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen

'I have a mind to tell of bodies and transformed shapes: O gods, breathe upon what I have started (for you were also responsible for changing their forms), and stretch out my unending song right from the origin of the world up to my own time.' (Met. 1.1- 4).

Ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fama,
siquid habent veri vatum presagia, vivam!

'I shall be read aloud in the mouths of the people, and through my fame, if the presagings of prophets carry any truth, I shall live on!' (Met. 15.878f.).

And so Ovid did, and so he still does; the band goes on playing and the music still enthralls.

The editors have collated eighteen essays on Ovid's Metamorphoses that cover a broad range of issues, of which reception forms the leitmotif. The title of the book, 'Ovidian Transformations', is an obvious pun on both its topic and its theme, that is on the Metamorphoses itself, and on its intertextual relationships with other works, both backward-looking (where did Ovid get his material and what did he do with it?) and forward (what was its influence on subsequent literature?).

The reader who comes to a disparate collection which has reception as its apparently overriding ordering principle may expect some sort of chronological approach: first a study of the carmen perpetuum itself and its sources, and then of Ovidian reception from the 'chaos' of his time of relegation up to today. This would fit the spirit of the poet's programmatic announcement in Met. 1.1f. that he will draw a picture of the changing universe from its beginnings up to the mea tempora of his own perception of his own era. Yet this collection, like its topic, deals in the unexpected, and so the ordering principle is thematic rather than chronological. Eighteen chapters are grouped into seven broad categories: A. 'Time'; B. 'Charting the World'; C. 'Holding the Centre'; D. 'Bodies'; E. 'Sexuality and Gender'; F. 'Poetics and Metamorphosis'; and G. 'Scholars and Poets'. These are very much the categories that one would expect to find in any discussion of the Metamorphoses but they have been further clustered under broader headings, 'The World', 'The Self', 'The Text', which allows for a more subtle interplay between what may be termed, respectively, 'backward' and 'forward' intertextuality.

The editors, three of the best-known modern English-speaking Ovidian critics, have mustered virtually the whole panoply of scholars whose work informs present-day approaches to the Metamorphoses and the Augustan era in general: Denis Feeney, Joseph Farrell, Karl Galinsky, John Henderson, Alison Keith, Gianpiero Rosati, and Richard Tarrant. Other contributors are less well-known in mainstream Ovidian studies, either because of their comparative youth, or because the normal thrust of their research has been in areas less familiar to this reviewer: Andrew Zissos and Ingo Gildenhard (who do a 'double act', with a second paper by Gildenhard and Zissos), Neil Wright, Raphael Lyne, Elena Theodorakopoulos, Debra Hershkowitz, Genevieve Lively, and Colin Burrow.

An extended Introduction (pp. 1-12) places the volume both in the area of intention (modern literary criticism of the Metamorphoses itself, and its earlier Nachlebung ) and origin (as the papers of a 1997 Cambridge conference). The editors spell out the scope of the volume with short thumb-nail sketches of the papers in their various groupings. My readers are referred to these pages for a rapid diachronic reprise of all the papers. I, as reviewer, would rather give a varied synchronic and idiosyncratic report below, as the volume suits the peculiarities of my interests.

For me, Hinds is perhaps the most influential present-day critic of Ovid's exilic poetry and of intertextuality in an Ovidian context. Here, in the third chapter ('After Exile: Time and Teleology from Metamorphoses to Ibis ,' pp. 48-67), he takes up themes from earlier papers, notably his 1985 article on Tristia 1.[[1]] Hinds argues that the concept of time is loaded in the exilic poetry, and that it is coloured by the poet's own reception (and editorial revision during exile) of both those earlier works that had time as a major ordering principle: diachronic in the Metamorphoses , synchronic in the Fasti .

In the first chapter ('Mea Tempora : Patterning of Time in the Metamorphoses ', pp. 13-30), Feeney speaks of a 'dialogue of time and beginnings between the Metamorphoses and the Fasti ' (p. 26).[[2]] Both Hinds and Feeney stress Ovid's rewriting of the mea tempora (`my own time') of his famous prologue as (the Augustan) tua tempora ('your day') in Tristia 2.555-60. Ovid has accepted defeat at the hands of Augustus (so Hinds). Time as an ordering principle of life stopped for Ovid with his relegation; secondary meanings of tempora as 'tempests' and as a '(clouded) brow' took over. Hence the Ibis , dateable to his fourth year of exile (and age 54) still obsessively portrays the exile as a fifty-year old, pinning him to the age at which the blow fell, and time stopped for him.

These two critics' papers, when read in succession, set up an interesting dialogue, where Feeney emerges as the greater optimist, considering that in the Metamorphoses Ovid has succeeded in defeating the Augustan time-frame and that Ovid's use of the word perennis ('everlasting') in Met. 15.875 shows his continued awareness of his 'chronological superiority to the Caesars--his time is always now ' (p. 27).[[3]]

An equally interesting dialogue may be traced (and it is the value of this collection that individual authors specifically relate or contrast their views with those of other contributors) between the optimistic view of certain mythical figures in the Metamorphoses as metaphors for the poet's success in defeating the erosion of time or power play, and a negative view of the final message that Ovid conveys through these same figures. Theodorakopolous starts her paper ('Closure and Transformation in Ovid's Metamorphoses ', pp. 142-61) with the statement that 'brutal attacks on the human body in the Metamorphoses relate to Ovid's view of writing poetry and the creative and political anxieties involved' (p. 142). In this view, the dismemberment of the poet Orpheus, and the unintelligible murmuring of the tongue of his disembodied head as it floats down the Hebrus (Met. 11.52f.) reflect the dissipation of Orpheus' poetic power and its ultimate silence. In a footnote Theodorakopolous admits 'Farrell in this volume reads a triumph where I read defeat' (p. 159, n. 53).[[4]] Her most important contribution is, however, the distinction she draws between 'metamorphosis' ('bodily change which retains original sentience') and 'apotheosis' ('katasterisation', yes, but, more importantly, 'disembodied existence with a continued voice'). Theodorakopolous considers (p. 152) that the success of the poetry depends on the success of various apotheoses portrayed by Ovid, as models for his own. The ending of the Metamorphoses , for her, with its emphasis on the 'business of writing poetry' shows the poet as 'deliberately at odds with himself' and with the idea of political improvement and progression (p. 161).

Farrell ('The Ovidian Corpus : Poetic Body and Poetic Text', pp. 127-41) takes up another word from the programmatic first two lines of the Metamorphoses , namely corpora ('bodies'). Farrell stresses that from earliest times the word in its singular form was used to denote a collection of works by a particular author, as, for instance, the fifteen books of the Metamorphoses . He, in a bolder metaphorical adaptation than Theodorakopolous' interpretation of particular mythical figures, finds in the Metamorphoses a 'material correlative of the poet's own body' (p. 128). For Farrell, Met. 15.871-79 signals the possible destruction of the physical book as a 'body', whereas 'the voice goes on'--we remember that the ancients read aloud. Farrell interprets the metamorphoses of Daphne, Io, and Syrinx as respectively representing the poetic text (tree-bark, tenuis liber , is also a 'slender book'), the act of writing (Io, as a heifer, scratches out her name in the sand) and music (Syrinx becomes a reed, the material used for making pipes). The boundaries of the triadic arrangement of the Metamorphoses are marked by characters who in some way represent the poet, starting with the Arachne-Minerva weaving contest in Met. 5 and 6.[[5]] The tale of Orpheus (Met. 10.1-85, 11.1-66) transcends the second triadic break and in the end the survival of the poet as a voice works as 'potent symbol of a singer whose voice outlives his body' (p. 138).[[6]] This, for Farrell, is the symbol for the exiled poet, too, whose disavowal in the exilic poetry of the classic transcendency of his Metamorphoses is undercut by the discernible fact of the continuation of his disembodied poetic voice.

It is perhaps predictable that certain myths recur in various scholars' papers. We have seen the contrasting views of two authors on the Orpheus myth. Meleager, the brand not snatched from the burning but destroyed through the agency of his own mother, is cited by Farrell as Ovid's own signifier of his mutilated Metamorphoses , scarce rescued and circulated in bootleg form by his friends (Tr. 1.7.16-24). Keith ('Versions of Masculinity in Ovid's Metamorphoses ', pp. 214-39) cites the tale on its own terms from Met. 8.426-29, but gives it a feminist spin; Meleager's wish to share the glory of the hunt with Atalanta is seen as breaking 'the harmony of male bonding' (p. 228). Keith's argument is on the whole sound, but I would take issue with, for instance, some of her interpretations of the myth of Hermaphroditus (the origins of whose name she does not seem to recognise as a combination of the Greek manifestations of his 'Roman' parents, Mars and Venus). She cites Nugent on the 'intriguing slippage' between 'single-minded assertion of his masculinity' and the problem of his name as 'already connoting both male and female' (p. 219).[[7]] To my mind both scholars here are indulging in the hysteron proteron fallacy. The condition of gender ambivalence has probably been named from the myth, not conversely.

Keith's greatest contribution lies in her exploration of the fluidity of Ovid's treatment of gender. His portrayal of transsexuals destabilises gender stereotypes in the Metamorphoses , as much as his elegiacs show up chinks in traditional assumptions about gender roles in ancient Rome. In similar vein Lively ('Reading Resistance in Ovid's Metamorphoses ', pp. 197- 213) suggests an alternative manner of reading the 'male-oriented' Pygmalion story (Met. 10.238-97), bringing the perspective that change has both internal and external aspects: the puella ('beloved') changes from statue to woman, but the sculptor himself changes from artist to lover.

The scholars cited so far do not express themselves strongly about the now acceptedly moot topic of the anti-, pro- or non- Augustanism of Ovid's Metamorphoses , except in passing allusions to the fact that power has a voice, the powerless are mute. Galinsky, perhaps the trend-setting critic for the acceptance of an idiosyncratic Augustanism (on our poet's own terms) in the Metamorphoses , reprises his arguments of the last twenty- five years,[[8]] that Ovid must not be seen as some kind of intellectual saboteur of a fully-worked-out programme of ideologised literary oppression. Galinsky is perhaps purposely radicalising in order to deconstruct the attitudes of scholars who read nuanced criticism of the Augustan regime into the flippant parody underlying most of Ovid's works, where they do not assume outright opposition.[[9]] Yet Galinsky's arguments are, as always, sound, and he makes out a case for the reading of the Metamorphoses as 'creative interaction' (p. 111) with 'Augustan cultural thematics', a term he has coined in order to avoid the 'highly ideologised' concept of 'ideology' (p. 105). Galinsky addresses a third aspect of the introductory couplet of the Metamorphoses , pointing out that deducere ad mea tempora ('to lead on / stretch out up to my own time') also can mean to 'modernise'. For Galinsky, while Vergil 'set a monument to the yearning for stability and permanence, Ovid's Metamorphoses . . . concentrates on (equally Augustan) change' (p. 111).

One of the co-editors, Philip Hardie, puts into perspective one of Ovid's many deliberate echoes of Vergil, noting (p. 266) that Ovid's Hyacinthus episode is a re-writing of Vergil's Nisus and Euryalus episode from Aen. 6.435-37, but that is not the point of his essay, ('Absent Presences in the Metamorphoses and Petrarch's Rime Sparse ', pp. 254-70). Hardie portrays himself as 'a reader reading Petrarch reading Ovid' and argues for a 'Petrarchan' appreciation of Ovid's ability through his narratives of fluidity and slippage to evoke the ghostlike intertextual presences of a series of predecessors. Hardie's paper offers a fine exposition of the nuancing of awareness of intertextuality that we need to bring to both Ovid and his imitators, a topic also addressed by Burrow ('"Full of the maker's guile": Ovid on imitating and on the imitation of Ovid', pp. 271-87). Burrow's thrust is, however, entirely different. He traces the adaptation of Ovid's description of the 'Cave of Sleep' from the Ceyx and Alcyone episode in Met. 11.626-29 in subsequent epics from Statius to Pope. Burrow contends that 'Ovidian poetics have a strong, delayed, and almost deadly, impact on the epic tradition' (p. 273).

The Ovidian tradition and his influence in diverse genres are also treated by Wright ('Creation and Recreation: Medieval Responses to Metamorphoses 1.5-88', pp. 68-84), Lyne ('Drayton's Chorographical Ovid', pp. 85-102), Hershkowitz ('The Creation of Self in Ovid and Proust', pp. 182-96). Each offers much of interest to both Ovidian scholars and students of those genres, but space precludes detailed discussion here.

The final section ('Scholars and Poets') offers two papers on Ovidian reception that are unusual for differing reasons. Tarrant discusses 'Nicolaas Heinsius and the Rhetoric of Textual Criticism' (pp. 288-300). To read a foremost modern text-critic on a great predecessor is a most rewarding experience. As portrayed by the modern critic, the eighteenth century scholar appears to be both erudite and humane. The examples quoted illustrate both the man and his manner as well as his critical and exegetical principles. In the end both scholars loom through the apparently dry material as fellow-travellers on the pleasant highway of verbal play first paved by Ovid. Their subject would, I am sure, have liked and admired them both.

And finally, Protean Ovid would (had he learned English as well as Getic) have enjoyed the verbal pyrotechnics of John Henderson's post-modern critique of two volumes of modern poetry in his unusually titled 'Ch-ch-ch-Changes' (pp. 301-23). His selective appreciation of both the versatility of a collection of translations by over forty poets (M. Hofmann and J. Lasdun, After Ovid: New Metamorphoses ) and the aptness of Ted Hughes' subsequent versification of individual episodes (Tales from Ovid ) ranges widely through modern works from Pound and Eliot to David Bowie. A critic who has herself been the butt of his incisive pen[[10]] may be pardoned for enjoying his good-natured demolition of greater icons. Henderson identifies the same problem that I have with Hughes' much-acclaimed tour-de-force: that selective presentation causes the loss of the monumental sweep of the original.

The editors' decision to limit to author, date and title the bibliographical details of monographs cited in their impressive, closely spaced twelve-page list (pp. 324-36) came as a surprise until I stopped to think 'Why not?'[[11]] Ovid was a past master at defying convention, why not our editors?

Each of the authors discussed above says much more than my poor interpretation of their thoughts can reflect. This volume is again an indication that the band may change its performers, but the melody lingers on: carmen perpetuum, carmen aeternum! ('unending song, eternal song!')


[[1]] S. Hinds, 'Booking the Return Trip: Ovid and Tristia 1', PCPhS 31 (1985) pp. 21-32. Equally influential on interpretation is his 'Generalising about Ovid' in A. Boyle The Imperial Muse (Victoria 1988) 4-31.

[[2]] Any discussion of Ovidian time must, as these two critics do, take into account Carol Newlands, Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti (Ithaka 1995).

[[3]] The paper by A. Zissos and I. Gildenhard ('Problems of Time in Metamorphoses 2', pp. 31-47) comments on the poet's erratic chronology within one book as offering a deliberate view of the collapse of temporal norms by underscoring chronological contradictions in the narrative. A series of close readings shows (p. 45) that encapsulation undercuts the temporal frame of the teleological drive implicit in epic.

[[4]] In this she is following the argument put forth by E.W. Leach 'Ekphrasis and the Theme of Artistic Failure in Ovid's Metamorphoses ', Ramus 3 (1974) 102-42.

[[5]] On this topic Rosati ('Form in Motion: Weaving the Text in the Metamorphoses ', pp. 240-53) shows that in the Arachne-tale Ovid 'created a foundation-myth for the metaphor of poetic spinning or weaving' (p. 250), showing that Ovidian myth frequently concretises metaphor.

[[6]] I. Gildenhard and A. Zissos ('Somatic Economies: Tragic Bodies and Poetic Design in Ovid's Metamorphoses ', pp. 162-81) concentrate on forma (shape/ form) and corpora (bodies) while discussing Ovid's use of themes from tragedy, which they designate as an 'aggressive reshaping of literary tradition' (p. 162) which is reflected in the loss of the physical integrity of various characters.

[[7]] G. Nugent: 'This Sex which is not One: De-constructing Ovid's Hermaphrodite', Differences 2.1 (1989) 160-85.

[[8]] Noticeable in his 'Hercules Ovidianus (Metamorphoses 9.1-272)', WS NF 6 (1972a) 93- 116 and 'Ovid's Metamorphosis of Myth' in G.K. Galinsky (ed.) Perspectives of Roman Poetry (Austin 1972b) 105-27, continued in his now standard Ovid's Metamorphoses : An Introduction to the Basic Aspects (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1975), and recently reprised, I am sure (although I have not so far seen it), in Augustan Culture. An Interpretative Introduction (Princeton 1996).

[[9]] On the Metamorphoses : U. Schmitzer, Zeitgeschichte in Ovids Metamorphosen: Mythologische Dichtung unter politischem Anspruch , Beiträge zur Altertumkunde 4 (Stuttgart 1990); on the Fasti Newlands [2], and Alessandro Barchiesi, The Poet and the Prince: Ovid and Augustan Discourse (Berkeley 1997); on the exilic poetry, Gareth Williams, Banished Voices (Cambridge 1994) is concerned with other matters, but does not avoid the issue; Hinds in various works [1] and J.-M. Claassen, 'Error and the Imperial Household: an Angry God and the Exiled Ovid's Fate', AClass 34 (1987) 31-47, and Displaced Persons: the Literature of Exile from Cicero to Boethius (London 1999). Closer to Galinsky's view is that of Elaine Fantham 'Rewriting and Rereading the Fasti : Augustus, Ovid and Recent Classical Scholarship', Antichthon 29 (1995) 42-59.

[[10]] J. Henderson, 'Not Wavering, but Frowning: Ovid as Isopleth (Tristia 1.1 through 10)', Ramus , 26.2 (1997) 138-71, in which he correctly identifies (and pokes kindly fun at) my 'Ovid's Wavering Identity: Personification and Depersonalisation in the Exilic Poems', Latomus 49.1 (1990b) 102-116 as referring to the term coined by Hermann Fraenkel, in Ovid: a Poet between Two Worlds (Berkeley 1945, 3rd repr. 1969).

[[11]] Expected titles feature, e.g. J. Fabre-Serris, Mythe et poesie dans les Metamorphoses d'Ovide: fonctions et significations de la mythologie dans la Rome augusteenne (Paris 1995) L. Spahlinger, Ars latet arte sua: Untersuchungen zur Poetologie in den Metamorphosen Ovids (Stuttgart/Leipzig 1996) and J.B. Solodow, The World of Ovid's Metamorphoses (Chapel Hill 1988), but I miss, for instance, B. Chwalek, Die Verwandlung des Exils in die elegische Welt: Studien zu den 'Tristia' und 'Ex Ponto' Ovids (Frankfurt am Main 1996).