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This chapter looks at the adaptations, mutations, and analogies of Ovidian themes and dynamics of metamorphosis in Greek and Roman narrative poems. The first part offers a sampling of metamorphic moments in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, arguing for a far-reaching comparability with Ovidian techniques, and also opening up a comparison between Dionysiac metamorphosis and metamorphosis in the Christian story. The second part explores the uses of metamorphosis in Latin Christian poetry on biblical stories, and in narratives of conversion, taking examples from biblical epic, Paulinus of Nola, and Prudentius. The question is posed of whether there is a specifically Christian poetics of metamorphosis.
Allegory ‘speaks the other’, that which was previously unspoken, and sometimes that which is unspeakable. Allegory also makes present what was absent; allegories are often absent presences. Allegory offers a fullness of meaning, but often succeeds only in delivering linguistic emptiness. Allegory may be a stepping-stone from the unreal or less real to the more real, in the anagogical exegeses of Neoplatonism. Biblical typology connects two historical events, one Old- and one New-Testament, the latter being understood as the ‘fulfilment’ of the former. Just how empty that leaves the former is disputed: should we talk of supersession, or of transformation? The presence of allegory requires the collusion of the reader. Allegories may become absent when their presence is denied, as for example in a persistent critical denial of the ‘typologies’ of Aeneid 8. The plausible deniability of allegory can also serve political purposes. The absences and presences of personification allegory are explored in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Prudentius’ Psychomachia. Ovid energises the long history of personifications conscious of their ‘selves’, while Prudentius brings words given bodies up against the Word made flesh. Finally I examine Claudian’s dissolution of the subjects of his panegyrical epics into a cloud of images and myths.
The subject of literary careers has attracted considerable interest recently among both classicists and students of English and other vernacular literatures. ‘Career criticism’ has emerged as a distinct branch of literary scholarship and criticism. It is to be distinguished from the older fashion for a life-and-works approach to the biographical criticism of an author, and also from the more recent interest in the ancient tradition of authors' lives. Instead of starting from what might be known, or claimed, about the historical life and times of an author, career criticism takes as its starting point the totality of an author's textual output and asks how that oeuvre as a whole shapes itself, both in its intratextual relationships (what kinds of beginnings, middles, and ends are traced in the pattern of an oeuvre), and in the claims it makes to reflect or mould extratextual conditions of production (whether located in the personal history of the author, or in the relationship of the author to political and cultural structures of power and authority). The previous sentence ascribes an agency to the oeuvre in ‘shaping’, ‘reflecting’ or ‘moulding’, an agency that can only be realized through a reader's perception of these processes. ‘Careers’, however, are things that authors, not texts or readers, pursue, and career criticism is unabashed in making the author its focus, always with the recognition that the author is mediated through texts, which in turn are always received by readers.
This is a wide-ranging collection of essays on ancient Roman literary careers and their reception in later European literature, with contributions by leading experts. Starting from the three major Roman models for constructing a literary career - Virgil (the rota Vergiliana), Horace and Ovid - the volume then looks at alternative and counter-models in antiquity: Propertius, Juvenal, Cicero and Pliny. A range of post-antique responses to the ancient patterns is examined, from Dante to Wordsworth, and including Petrarch, Shakespeare, Milton, Marvell, Dryden and Goethe. These chapters pose the question of the continuing relevance of ancient career models as ideas of authorship change over the centuries, leading to varying engagements and disengagements with classical literary careers. The volume also considers other ways of concluding or extending a literary career, such as bookburning and figurative metempsychosis.
Ovid has the historical privilege of being next in line and the first to react to what had been the boom in poetic self-reference and auto(bio)graphy in the times of Catullus, Virgil, Propertius and Horace. He is also the one who does the most to continue Horace's invention of a ‘literary system’ and a ‘school’ and an ‘Augustan age’ model of Roman poetry (compare e.g. Horace, Serm. 1.10.31–50 with Ovid, Tristia 4.10.41–56; Ex Ponto 4.16.5–40).
Furthermore, Ovid is unique in ancient literature for the sheer number and quasi-systematic regularity of autographic situations: in his extant production, every single work (with the exception of genres that cannot accommodate authorial self-expression: his heroic epic, and presumably his lost tragedy Medea) has a space of self-expression and, often, of recapitulation. Equally important, there is no single poetic text by Naso that remains ‘unsigned’, either through the inclusion of the author's name, or by explicit reference in another Ovidian text, or, often, both. In other words, there is almost no Ovidian poem that remains unacknowledged. Even more important, in a number of cases his texts ‘talk to each other’ (Hinds 1985; Barchiesi 2001; compare Frings 2005), with the result that each work is positioned within a career: for example, the Fasti engage the earlier elegiac/erotic work with the question ‘Who would believe that a path could lead from there to here?’ (2.8).
This volume is based on a selection of the papers delivered at the Second Passmore Edwards Symposium on Literary Careers, held in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 2–4 September 2004, together with two additional chapters commissioned to cover important aspects of the subject. The conference was generously funded by the Passmore Edwards Committee of the University of Oxford; we are also grateful to Corpus Christi College for its support.