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This essay formulates a critical response to scholars’ Freudian-Lacanian understanding of Ovidian desire in terms of frustration, futility, absence and lack. It focuses on the Remedia Amoris, a poem it takes as paradigmatic and culminatory in Ovid’s elegiac project, and attempts to give an account of what is meaningful and productive about the rhythmic process of Ovidian amor in and of itself, through the lens of Jean-Luc Nancy’s recent book on jouissance (Coming, 2017). The Remedia, it argues, performs absence not as tragic loss but as an undoing-remaking that continually regenerates desire and teaches investment in the pleasure of process. The second half of the essay explores how the poem’s temporal instabilities and dislocated subject positions produce a series of imagined inter-relations and ‘elsewheres’ that move readers away from Lacanian desire as continually projected into an ungraspable future, and into the experience of jouissance in the elegiac present.
This article takes as its stimulus Adriana Cavarero's recent investigation of the postures of rectitude and inclination in the Western philosophical tradition (Cavarero 2013). To showcase how this book might catalyze productive interactions between feminist critics in different areas of the humanities, I will bring Cavarero into dialogue with a thinker she mentions in passing who extensively develops “rectitude as a general principle” (Veyne 2003): Seneca. I argue that a gendered ontology of rectitude is increasingly put under pressure and transformed in Seneca's Epistles, and propose that the letters are a laboratory for developing a new model of inclination that arises from an urgent need to confront the consequences of political impotence and threats to bodily integrity for Roman aristocratic manhood in the 60s ce. The playful, densely literary Epistles offer multiple points of contact with Cavarero's own philosophical strategies, and emerge as a highly stimulating text for feminist thinkers interested in the ethical and political implications of acknowledging vulnerability. Reading Seneca alongside Cavarero reminds us that such investigations have a (tortuous, buried) history in Roman antiquity whose recovery is itself politically significant.