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Ovid and the Renaissance Body

Ovid and the Renaissance Body

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    Ovid and the Renaissance Body
    Book Description:

    This collection of original essays uses contemporary theory to examine Renaissance writers? reworking of Ovid?s texts in order to analyze the strategies in the construction of the early modern discourses of gender, sexuality, and writing.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7819-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Ovid and the Renaissance Body
    (pp. 3-18)

    Towards the end of Shakespeare’sTitus Andronicus, Lavinia – raped, her tongue cut out, and with stumps for hands – ‘busily ... turns the leaves’ of Ovid’sMetamorphoseslooking for the story of Philomela (4.1.45).¹ At this moment, the stage becomes the site of a powerful and disturbing image of two preoccupations of Renaissance literature and arts: Ovid and the body. This scene of reading Lavinia’s ravished and mutilated body through Ovid, and of staging a failed attempt to articulate the pain and fate of femininity at the end of this profoundly Ovidian and misogynistic play, anticipates some of the...

  5. Part I: Identification and Desire

    • Ovidian Subjectivities in Early Modern Lyric: Identification and Desire in Petrarch and Louise Labé
      (pp. 21-37)

      Recent studies in the history and theory of sexuality have returned to a famous Freudian formulation of sexual development to examine key aspects in the formation of subjectivity: identification and desire. Freud wrote of the Oedipal complex that it was the phase of an individual’s development whereby these were accomplished in the subject: through the Oedipal phase and the castration complex the infant learns to identify with one sex and desire the other. Elsewhere, however, Freud’s discussions of identification reveal that it is not so easy to separate the two: identification turns out to be the form possession takes of...

    • Imagining Heterosexuality in the Epyllia
      (pp. 38-58)

      InEchoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses, Heather Dubrow argues that petrarchism ‘repeatedly challenges the boundaries between characteristics that might be considered masculine and feminine; whereas its counterdiscourses react to these challenges in many different ways, one of the most common and revealing is their attempt to reestablish gender distinctions.’¹ This is true to some degree of the epyllion, one of the genres that Dubrow identifies as a counterdiscourse to Petrarchism, and one which is very much interested in establishing clear guidelines for masculine and feminine behaviour. Written for the most part in the last decade of the...

    • Inversion, Metamorphosis, and Sexual Difference: Female Same-Sex Desire in Ovid and Lyly
      (pp. 59-76)

      As a dramatist steeped in the humanism of the English Renaissance, John Lyly was well aware of his debt to the classical tradition. His grandfather, William Lily, was ‘the author of a celebrated Latin grammar’s and was made ‘first High Master of St Paul’s School in 1510.’¹ Lyly collaborated with both Colet and Erasmus on the Latin grammar, their aim being to ‘take the pupils as quickly as possible to classicalliteratureby cutting down to a minimum the rules that had to be learned.’² ‘Lily’s Grammar’ remained a standard work down to the eighteenth century and surely played a...

    • A Garden of Her Own: Marvell’s Nymph and the Order of Nature
      (pp. 77-93)

      One of the most common approaches to Andrew Marvell’s poetry has been to illuminate the ways in which his texts shadow political and religious controversies. This quest for historical specificity has, however, tended to draw attention away from less topical concerns, such as Marvell’s treatment of multiplicitous erotic desires and practices. In his Ovidian lament,The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun, for instance, Marvell provocatively dishabituates an emergent heteronormative sex-gender system.¹ Marvell’s touching monody transports readers to a sensual greenworld into which cruelty, death, and metamorphosis violently intrude. Narrated by a melancholy nymph, the poem describes how...

    • ‘Male deformities’: Narcissus and the Reformation of Courtly Manners in Cynthia’s Revels
      (pp. 94-110)

      The analysis of homoeroticism in Ovidian myth has been, and continues to be, an important concern of lesbian and gay Renaissance scholarship.¹ Thanks to such work, we now possess a solid understanding of the multiple ways in which homoerotic myths – particularly those about Jupiter and Ganymede, Apollo and Hyacinthus, Diana and Callisto, and Orpheus – were interpreted, translated, and appropriated within early modern culture. Surprisingly, however, lesbian and gay Renaissance scholarship has generally neglected the Ovidian subject most commonly associated with homosexual desire in our own era: the myth of Narcissus, the lovely youth who scorns his suitors and...

    • Arms and the Women: The Ovidian Eroticism of Harington’s Ariosto
      (pp. 111-126)

      By any measure, Sir John Harington’s Folio translation of Ariosto’sOrlando Furiosois an impressive book. Ariosto’s poem – the most popular European epic of the early sixteenth century – makes its first appearance ‘in English Heroical Verse’ in equally heroic format.¹ The length of the great poem, the breadth of the folio pages, the baroque splendour of the engraved illustrations all strongly assert the volume’s cultural importance. Bound in calf and adorned with gold leaf (as is the copy currently in the Huntington Library),² the book itself becomes an epic object – weighty, elegant, substantial, robust. One might almost...

  6. Part II: Speech, Voice, and Embodiment

    • Localizing Disembodied Voice in Sandys’s Englished ‘Narcissus and Echo’
      (pp. 129-154)

      In the preface to his 1632 translation of Ovid’sMetamorphoses, George Sandys professes to be well aware of the ethical sensibility of his seventeenth-century readers. Dealing seriously with Ovid’s mythography at a time when Ovid’s popularity was waning or controversial amongst devout Christians,¹ Sandys carefully argues his case for the applicability of Ovid’s stories to early modern mores, claiming that the stories give access to philosophical and moral truths despite having been narrated by a pagan writer. Participating in a long tradition ofOvide moralisé, Sandys foregrounds the instructional objective of his translation: ‘For the Poet not onely renders things...

    • The Ovidian Hermaphrodite: Moralizations by Peend and Spenser
      (pp. 155-170)

      In the final stanzas of the three-book version ofThe Faerie Queene(1590), Edmund Spenser presents his readers with a visionary image of the reunion of the separated lovers Amoret and Scudamour. This reunion is a physical one, as is made clear by an intriguing comment of the author:

      Had ye them scene, ye would haue surely thought,

      That they had been that faireHermaphrodite,

      Which that richRomaneof white marble wrought,

      And in his costly Bath causd to be site.¹

      It is very curious that Spenser should refer his readers to what appears to be a fairly obscure...

    • Ovid and the Dilemma of the Cuckold in English Renaissance Drama
      (pp. 171-188)

      At the climax of his fragmentaryHero and Leander(1593), Christopher Marlowe stages the initial sexual encounter between his poem’s eponymous lovers, and he stages it as a kind of rape:

      Every kiss to [Hero] was as a charm,

      And to Leander as a fresh alarm.


      She trembling strove; this strife of hers (like that

      Which made the world) another world begat

      Of unknown joy. Treason was in her thought,

      And cunningly to yield herself she sought.

      Seeming not won, yet won was she at length,

      In such wars women use but half their strength.¹

      This assault comes as...

  7. Part III: Textualization

    • Lyrical Wax in Ovid, Marlowe, and Donne
      (pp. 191-206)

      In his bookWriting MatterJonathan Goldberg advocates working towards a ‘cultural graphology,’ which aims to evaluate how available technology and materials affect the writing and thought of a period.¹ A similar approach has been adopted very suggestively in Jocelyn Penny Small’s work on memory and literacy in the classical world, which shows how tools and writing surfaces defined the tasks required and achieved. One of the important tools she discusses is the wax tablet, citing examples of writers comparing the act of memorization to making impressions on wax.² From a literary perspective the wax tablet is of interest because...

    • Engendering Metamorphoses: Milton and the Ovidian Corpus
      (pp. 207-223)

      The language of metamorphosis and dismemberment haunts Milton’s writings, despite the ‘highly individualized “portrait of the artist” that Milton himself constructed so authoritatively’ by transmitting his life and voice through print.¹ The unifying imperatives developed by Miltonists have advanced this view of the writer; as Mary Nyquist and Margaret W. Ferguson observe inRe-membering Milton, Milton ‘continues to enjoy the status of the most monumentally unified author in the canon.’² An analysis of episodes from Milton’s literary life and works, especiallyParadise Lost, enables an investigation of his ongoing exchanges with Ovid, by whom he is first enchanted. Milton’s scenes...

    • The Girl He Left Behind: Ovidian imitatio and the Body of Echo in Spenser’s ‘Epithalamion’
      (pp. 224-238)

      Criticism on the subject of Ovid in the Renaissance has traditionally focused on translation, reworking ofepyllia, and imitation of Ovidian style, tone, and wit.¹ Criticism interested in the figure of Echo has, while usually taking brief note of the version of the myth inMetamorphoses, Book III, focused attention immediately on the abstractions of echo and echoing – as intertextuality, resonance, imitation, or belatedness – leaving the girl behind. The Echo of Ovid’s myth is adduced only to transcend her in favour of literary allusivity (Hollander), deconstructive repetition (Goldberg), or in a recuperative effort of current feminism (Greenberg, Mudge)...

    • ‘If that which is lost be not found’: Monumental Bodies, Spectacular Bodies in The Winter’s Tale
      (pp. 239-259)

      It is hard to imagineThe Winter’s Taleas a lost play when it is so prominently placed as the last of the comedies in Shakespeare’s First Folio. Yet the oracle’s famous warning that order will not be restored ‘if that which is lost be not found’ briefly applied to at least one crucial copy of the play, which was misplaced while the Folio was in press. An August 1623 record (itself now lost) in the Revels office licensed ‘the king’s players’ to perform ‘an olde playe calledWinters Tale, formerly allowed of by Sir George Bucke, and likewyse by...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 260-268)

    In the Renaissance literature classroom, ‘Ovid’ is never very far away. But when his name is invoked, it often is in the form of a brief literary allusion that raises more questions than it answers (‘after being raped by her brother-in-law, Philomela’s tongue was cut out; she was later transformed into a nightingale’) or worse, an inert and inexplicable reference to an even more temporally distant text (‘seeFasti). In a time when Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, and Milton have been joined on the syllabus by Isabella Whitney, Mary Wroth, Elizabeth Gary, and Margaret Cavendish, it might seem to be asking...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 269-272)
  10. Index
    (pp. 273-281)