The Ovidian Vogue

The Ovidian Vogue: Literary Fashion and Imitative Practice in Late Elizabethan England

DANIEL D. MOSS
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt7zwcbg
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  • Book Info
    The Ovidian Vogue
    Book Description:

    The Roman poet Ovid was one of the most-imitated classical writers of the Elizabethan age and a touchstone for generations of English writers. InThe Ovidian Vogue, Daniel Moss argues that poets appropriated Ovid not just to connect with the ancient past but also to communicate and compete within late Elizabethan literary culture.

    Moss explains how in the 1590s rising stars like Thomas Nashe and William Shakespeare adopted Ovidian language to introduce themselves to patrons and rivals, while established figures like Edmund Spenser and Michael Drayton alluded to Ovid's works as a way to map their own poetic development. Even poets such as George Chapman, John Donne, and Ben Jonson, whose early work pointedly abandoned Ovid as cliché, could not escape his influence. Moss's research exposes the literary impulses at work in the flourishing of poetry that grappled with Ovid's cultural authority.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1747-6
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: “Note how she quotes the leaves”
    (pp. 3-20)

    With the exception of one fatally illiterate clown, the hapless characters trapped in the helical revenge plot of William Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy,Titus Andronicus, are all well-read. Even the play’s barbarians – the Gothic princes Chiron and Demetrius, their bloodthirsty mother Tamora, and her lover, the sinister Moor Aaron – appear to have received the equivalent of an early modern humanist education, predisposing them to cite classical precedents almost as obsessively as their Roman foes.¹ The Andronici themselves, however, prove Shakespeare’s most determined bibliophiles. In desperate circumstances – Titus’s daughter Lavinia has been raped and mutilated, and the patriarch himself...

  6. 1 Impotence and Stillbirth: Nashe, Shakespeare, and the Ovidian Debut
    (pp. 21-50)

    Francis Meres’s famous acclamation of Shakespeare as the poetic repository for “the sweete wittie soule ofOuid” arrives in the middle of his “Comparative discourse of our English Poets,” and differs little from his praise for other luminaries. Meres does, however, distinguish one contemporary, the satiric pamphleteer Thomas Nashe, with his warmest regard, slipping from third-person adjudication into personal address:

    AsActæonwas wooried of his owne hounds: so is Tom Nashof his Ile of Dogs. Dogges were the death ofEuripedes, but bee not disconsolate young Iuuenall, Linus, the sonne ofApollodied the same death. Yet God...

  7. 2 Shadow and Corpus: The Shifting Figure of Ovid in Chapman’s Early Poetry
    (pp. 51-73)

    Unsurprisingly, the authors of commendatory sonnets – those ubiquitous squares prefacing early modern publications – cultivated hyperbole rather than ambiguity, and projected enthusiastic conviction far more often than critical poise. The first three sonnets introducing George Chapman’s 1595 volume,Ovid’s Banquet of Sense, accordingly applaud the commended poet’s superlative genius, as distinguished from the inferior productions of contemporary rivals peddling popular and derivative Ovidian imitations, the late Marlowe and the newly successful Shakespeare most prominently. Richard Stapleton opens theBanquetvolume with a characteristic commendation, “Phoebushath giuen thee both his bow, and Muse; / With one thou slayst the...

  8. 3 Ovid in the Godless Poem: Allusive Rebellion in Edmund Spenser’s Legend of Justice
    (pp. 74-118)

    Over the past few decades, Spenser scholarship has progressed from general inquiries as to whether or to what degreeThe Faerie Queenequalifies as an imitation of theMetamorphoses, towards a more confident scrutiny of the timing and shape of Spenser’s intertextual engagement with the broader Ovidian corpus. Initial claims that “theMetamorphosesprovide a groundwork for something Spenser absolutely requires: a self-reflexive theory of his own poetic process” – as Angus Fletcher rationalizes his sense ofThe Faerie Queene’s “Ovidian matrix” – encouraged increasingly close readings, like Colin Burrow’s line-by-line analysis of the hermaphroditic aetiology for the “Well of...

  9. 4 The Post-Metamorphic Landscape in Drayton’s Endimion and Phoebe and Englands Heroicall Epistles
    (pp. 119-151)

    Rosamondis so like Ovid that we catch ourselves trying to remember the Latin,” wrote C.S. Lewis in 1954, reviewing Michael Drayton’s 1597 collection,Englands Heroicall Epistles.¹ Like so many of his venerable declarations, the statement tells us more about Lewis himself than about the poet under discussion; the “we” is eminently royal, and the quiet joke – that Lewis can’t be bothered to consult Ovid’s original Latin – gives us a fair estimate of the amount of time we may devote to Drayton’s bestseller: long enough to recognize the Elizabethan poet’s successful imitation of his classical model, Ovid’sHeroides,...

  10. 5 The Brief Ovidian Career of John Donne
    (pp. 152-180)

    At least under certain historical conditions, such as those underwriting the Ovidian vogue of the English 1590s, it makes little sense to refer to the straightforward rise and fall of a particular literary influence. Indeed, a host of outlying examples disrupts this convenient parabolic model, in some cases even inverting it; we might, for example, set Shakespeare’s 1593 rendering of the Adonis-flower as a terminal aetiology – a stillborn metamorphosis forecasting the end of the vogue, even in its youth – against Drayton’s bestselling transcription of Ovidian epistolarity at the turn of the seventeenth century. Hence, in the preceding chapters,...

  11. Conclusion: “It sticks strangely, whatever it is”
    (pp. 181-186)

    Simultaneously the most decadent cliché of the late Renaissance and the period’s most fruitful poetic ground, Ovidianism was no longer a retrospective mode by the middle of the English 1590s, but was rather the premier means of locating oneself among peers and rivals, themselves visibly invested in striking imitative postures relative to the established fact of Ovid’s celebrity. In this sense, the self-divided attitude towards Ovidianism already on display in Shakespeare’sTitus Andronicustypifies a larger truth about the rapidly evolving literary culture of the late Elizabethan period: at this transitional moment – as private patronage was giving way to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-230)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-256)