Thursday, July 26, 2012

Books on Ovid's Metamorphoses

I've stumbled upon two studies of Ovid that look interesting. The first, by Garth Tissol, is The Face of Nature. The blurb on Amazon describes Tissol's primary concern, which seems relevant to some of our recent discussions:
In these reflections on the mercurial qualities of style in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Garth Tissol contends that stylistic features of the ever-shifting narrative surface, such as wordplay, narrative disruption, and the self-conscious reworking of the poetic tradition, are thematically significant. It is the style that makes the process of reading the work a changing, transformative experience, as it both embodies and reflects the poem's presentation of the world as defined by instability and flux. Tissol deftly illustrates that far from being merely ornamental, style is as much a site for interpretation as any other element of Ovid's art.

In the first chapter, Tissol argues that verbal wit and wordplay are closely linked to Ovidian metamorphoses. Wit challenges the ordinary conceptual categories of Ovid's readers, disturbing and extending the meanings and references of words. Thereby it contributes on the stylistic level to the readers' apprehension of flux. On a larger scale, parallel disturbances occur in the progress of narratives. In the second and third chapters, the author examines surprise and abrupt alteration of perspective as important features of narrative style. We experience reading as a transformative process not only in the characteristic indirection and unpredictability of Ovid's narrative but also in the memory of his predecessors. In the fourth chapter, Tissol shows how Ovid subsumes Vergil's Aeneid into the Metamorphoses in an especially rich allusive exploitation, one which contrasts Vergil's aetiological themes with those of his own work.

Tissol, a Classics professor at Emory University, was a student of William S. Anderson, and edited his Festschrift. According to his vita, he's under contract to continue Anderson's commentaries on Metamorphoses 11 - 15.

The other book, by Philip Hardie, is entitled Ovid's Poetics of Illusion. Hardie is also the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. Description on Amazon:
This major study of Ovid's poetry is the first overarching treatment of the importance of illusion and the conjuring presence throughout his corpus. Modern theoretical approaches accompanied by close readings examine the topic from the points of view of poetics and rhetoric, aesthetics, the psychology of desire, philosophy, religion, and politics. There are also case studies of the reception of Ovid's poetics of illusion in Renaissance and modern literature and art. The book will interest those studying Latin and later European literature. All foreign languages are accompanied by translations.
The cover of Ovid's Poetics of Illusion features, "of course," Pygmalion:


Alas, both tomes are expensive. Amazon's "Look Inside" feature allows glimpses of both books. I've managed to order a less expensive used copy of the Tissol through Amazon's affiliated booksellers. -- Never mind, they wrote back and cancelled the order - the book had already been sold.

Tissol's book is reviewed here by Joseph B. Solodow, another Ovidian and author of The World of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

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