Literary Theory

Hi all,

One of the nice parts about my research experience was being able to delve into areas of interest that I had wanted to learn more about but never found the time to do so. Since coming to college, I have developed a fascination for literary theory; however, not having room to take English or LCST courses with my classics and chemistry curricula, I haven’t really been able to learn about it except in spare time and reading. Over the summer, then, I realized that I had the perfect opportunity to read about it and get some groundwork for further study.

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End of Summer Update

Hello all,

Well, the summer is ending; and as my summer research period comes to a close, I can say that I am very happy with the work that I have completed. I am even more excited about the work that is to come. As of now, I have a 10 plus page draft of a paper that I am happy with: I treat the issues of multiple readership, the letter’s ruse as an epistle, and Ovid’s self-presentation. I’ve read several books and many articles about my topic and have gained an even deeper respect for Ovid’s unending cleverness. It is almost maddening.

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The Art of Safe Criticism in Greece and Rome

Hello,

I thought that I’d make a quick post after reading an interesting article on ancient rhetoric that dealt with the art of criticism and “figured speech.” For the ancients (from Quintilian, a first century CE professor), speaking directly (palam) and speaking openly (aperte) were shaded differently: the former was unsafe, unwise; the latter, necessary and safe. One could criticize a tyrant so long as a favorable, flattering meaning was imparted at one level. This technique is one that Ovid uses – quite extensively – in the letter that I am studying. Here are two quotes from the article (author Frederick Ahl of Cornell) that I found interesting:

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Epistolary Persuasion: Ovid in Exile

Hello,

This is my first blog post since beginning my summer research project on Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto 1.1.2, and I am beginning my fourth week of reading and writing. I began my study by obtaining a copy of the recent English commentary on the first book of the ex Ponto and read through the letter in Latin. It was fun to do this, as I had just finished an intensive intermediate level class at Georgetown in Latin and my reading ability skyrocketed during the three weeks of the class. After finishing reading the letter and taking initial notes on the work, I began a long process of going through the work line by line and making comments and analyses on my way through it. To this end, I referenced Gaertner’s commentary while concurrently reading Janet Altman’s book Epistularity: Approaches to a Form, which is the fundamental work on thinking about and analyzing epistolary works. Although Altman’s study is grounded in the 18th century epistolary novel, her methodologies are applicable to any letter writing. In addition to these two works, I read several articles on other letters in the exile poetry to see what features scholars have been focusing on recently in the ex Ponto. I’ve also been reading chapters here and there in books ranging in topic from epistolarity in roman and greek literature to Ovidian studies to thinking about death in ancient Rome.

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Classic(al) Summer

Hello everyone,

My name is Brett Evans, and I am excited to start my Christopher Wren summer scholarship project and blog. With just one exam between me and a kicking off the summer with a long, long nap, I’d just like to lay out what I will be working on over the next coming months. Starting in around two weeks, I will take an intermediate Latin class at Georgetown so that I can rapidly increase my reading fluency and command of grammar. I’m really excited for the class – I only started Latin this past year, and I’m captivated by it. After the class ends in mid-June, I plan to take a week or two off before beginning my research down here in Williamsburg, which will last me for the rest of the summer. My project is a study of some of Ovid’s poetry written from exile, specifically his letters written to named addressees back in Rome asking them to persuade Augustus to relocate Ovid to a nicer place in exile (he was not a happy camper on the shores of the Black Sea – more to come on the harsh terrain and barbarians galloping over the frozen Danube). I am focusing my study on one letter in particular, the second of the collection, written to Fabius Maximus, the pater familias (a Roman position of influence as the head of his family) of his wife’s family. In his first of a few letters to Maximus, Ovid tries to win his favor through flattery and comparing his suffering in exile to that of famous mythological heroines famous for their own sad fates. Ovid also launches a lengthy (about one third of the poem) and complex criticism of Augustus in his work, which is curious; Ovid ostensibly wants Augustus to treat him more favorably, and yet openly criticizes his very legitimacy as emperor. To complicate discussion of the letter and the entire collection, the poems are written in the style of private letters; however, Ovid had them openly published in Rome for all to read and even arranged them to create a distinctly literary work. We must consider the extent to which these letters can be read as persuasive personal appeals and innovative literary creations. Ovid is endlessly witty -the more I learn about his poetry, the more confounded I become and the more questions I need to investigate.

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