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New Directions in Ovidian Scholarship

Sara Myers

University of Virginia

This paper looks to the future of Ovidian scholarship by starting with a meta-critical reading of the last 30 years of Ovidian research, then forecasting future trends.

Since the mid-1980s, scholarship on Ovid has received major impetus from the ongoing production of much-needed commentaries on every poem of his corpus: from Amores (McKeown 1987, 1989, 1998) and Ars Amatoria (Gibson; Brunelle) through Heroides (Casali; Knox; Kenney; Bessone; Heinze; Reeson; Michalopoulos; Piazzi), Metamorphoses (Hopkinson; Barchiesi et al. 2005-2015; Fratantuono; Gildenhard; Myers 2009), and Fasti (Fantham; Green; Littlewood), to the exile poetry (Ciccarelli, Gaertner, Helzle, Ingleheart, Tissol, Formicola). Even the Ibis is receiving renewed attention (Keeline; Krasne). Research on Ovidian poetry shows no sign of slowing down in the new millennium, but in the wake of this stream of critical commentaries, the analytical foci of Ovidian scholarship have shifted since 2000 (review of pre-2000 scholarship in Myers 1999).

Studies of Ovid’s techniques of allusion and intertextuality in the Latin literary tradition were energized by the studies of Hinds 1998 and Edmunds 2001, building on earlier discussions of Vergilian allusion and intertextuality (Conte and Thomas, both 1986). But an important shift in the scholarship on Ovid’s engagement with the classical literary tradition lies in a new focus on his recuperation of archaic Greek epic models (Boyd; Keith 2016, Miller 2016, Rosati). This complements the increasingly sophisticated study of Ovid’s tragic models in the Heroides and Metamorphoses (Armstrong, Seng, Janan, Curley). Another new direction in which scholars are taking this research focus is in more nuanced assessments of Ovid’s own reception of his earlier poetry in later works (Martelli), and the reception of his poetry in imperial Latin literature (Tissol and Wheeler; Hinds 2007 and 2011; Fulkerson and Stover; Fielding).

A significant area developing in Ovidian scholarship has been inspired by feminist criticism. This body of scholarship analyzes Ovid’s rich dossier of female characters in the Heroides (Lindheim, Spentzou, Fulkerson) and Metamorphoses (Salzman-Mitchell) and has begun to illuminate an often coercive engagement of female readers in his erotodidactic (James) and epic practice (Sharrock 1991, 1994; Richlin in ead. 1992; Keith; McAuley; cf. McKinley). Related to the intensification of feminist scholarship on Ovid, we foresee a turn towards an explicitly intersectional analysis of his poetry, including a new interest in the representation of ethnicity across the corpus and especially in the exile poetry.

Another welcome development in contemporary research on Ovidian poetry is a new sophistication in the treatment of the Latin poet’s politics. Leaving behind the stale debate that flourished in the 1970s about Ovid’s supposed Augustanism or anti-Augustanism, scholars are now examining the politics of his amatory verse (Boyle, Davis), Metamorphoses (Feldherr), Fasti (Barchiesi 1993 [Engl. transl. 1997]; Newlands), and, especially, the exile poems (McGowan, Martelli, Pandey). This recent scholarship often builds on the arguments of Zanker, from a generation ago, concerning the representation of Augustan monuments in the poetry of Ovid’s elder contemporaries, but shows more sensitivity to the shifting political currents of the later years of Augustus’ principate.

A final area in which scholars are turning for new research on Ovid is in his engagement with the traditions of ancient philosophy from Pythagoras and Empedocles to Lucretius. Commentaries are beginning to collect the evidence (Myers 2009, Fratantuono, Hardie [= Barchiesi et al. 2015]). Moreover, a conference on Ovidius Philosophicus is planned at Columbia University for March 2019.     

Anticipated future directions of research to be discussed in this paper, aside from philosophy in Ovid, include further analyses of his engagement with myth, Ovidian reception over the last two millennia, issues of ethnicity and imperialism, and continued focus on gender. These studies will be well-supported by the commentaries and scholarship of the last thirty-some years.

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Ovid Studies: the Next Millennium

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