Ovid in the #MeToo Era

Daniel Libatique, College of the Holy Cross
@DLibatique10 #AIASCS #S68
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January 6, 2019 | SCS Annual Meeting
“Ovid Studies: The Next Millennium” | International Ovidian Society

Passages | Bibliography


1. Tarana Burke (founder of #MeToo) on Asia Argento:

2. Prof. Katharina Volk (Columbia University) on Ovid:

One possibility is to view Ovid as a proto-feminist. He’s trying to give women a voice. The other way to think about it is that he’s an extreme sexist.

3. Three questions for analyzing Ovid’s violent narratives:

A) Who has the power? -or- Who is deprived of power?
B) How do they gain that power? -or- How are they deprived of power?
C) Who grants them power? -or- Who deprives them of power?

4. Tereus’ vision.

A) ecce uenit magno diues Philomela paratu,
diuitior forma; quales audire solemus
Naidas et Dryadas mediis incedere siluis,
si modo des illis
cultus similesque paratus.
non secus exarsit conspecta uirgine Tereus
quam si quis canis ignem supponat aristis
aut frondem positasque cremet faenilibus herbas.
digna quidem
facies, sed et hunc innata libido
exstimulat, pronumque genus regionibus illis
in Venerem est; flagrat uitio gentisque suoque.
(Ovid Metamorphoses 6.451-460)

Look, Philomela comes, rich in her great adornment, like the Naiads or Dryads that we’re accustomed to hear march along in the middle of the forests, if only you’d give them similar cultivation and adornment. No differently did Tereus burn when he saw the maiden than when someone places fire underneath dry old grain or sets fire to foliage or grass near the haylofts. Her face was indeed worthy, but innate lasciviousness goaded him, and his stock from those regions is inclined towards Venus; he burns with both his lineage’s and his own vice.

B) quid quod idem Philomela cupit patriosque lacertis
blanda tenens umeros, ut eat
uisura sororem,
perque suam contraque suam petit ipsa salutem.

spectat eam Tereus praecontrectatque uidendo,
osculaque et collo circumdata bracchia cernens
omnia pro stimulis facibusque ciboque furoris
(Ov. Met. 6.475-481)

What is more, Philomela desires the same thing — she hugs her father’s shoulders coaxingly, so that she might go and see her sister, and she asks both for and against her own safety. Tereus watches her, and by watching her, he senses what it would be like to touch her, and he sees her kisses and her arms thrown around her father’s neck, and he takes it all in as goads and torches and food for his frenzy.

C) at rex Odrysius, quamuis secessit, in illa
aestuat et,
repetens faciem motusque manusque,
qualia uult fingit quae nondum uidit et ignes
ipse suos nutrit cura remouente soporem.
(Ov. Met. 6.490-493)

But although he has withdrawn, the Odrysian king burns for her and, seeking again her face and her movements and her hands, he imagines what he wants which he has not yet seen, and he nourishes his own fires, his anxiety removing his sleepiness.

D) … nusquam lumen detorquet ab illa,
non aliter quam cum pedibus praedator obuncis
deposuit nido leporem Iouis ales in alto;
nulla fuga est capto,
spectat sua praemia raptor. (Ov. Met. 6.515-518)

At no point does he turn his sight away from her, no differently than when a predator, the bird of Jove, with hooked talons has placed a hare in his lofty nest; there is no escape for the captured, the raptor watches his own prize.

5. Philomela’s speech: Ov. Met. 6.531-548.

mox ubi mens rediit, passos laniata capillos,
[lugenti similis, caesis plangore lacertis,]
intendens palmas ‘o diris barbare factis,
o crudelis’ ait,
nec te mandata parentis
cum lacrimis mouere piis
nec cura sororis (535)
nec mea uirginitas nec coniugalia iura?
[omnia turbasti; paelex ego facta sororis,
tu geminus coniunx, hostis mihi debita poena.]
quin animam hanc, ne quod facinus tibi, perfide, restet,
eripis? atque utinam fecisses ante nefandos
concubitus; uacuas habuissem criminis umbras.
si tamen haec superi cernunt, si numina diuum
sunt aliquid,
si non perierunt omnia mecum,
quandocumque mihi poenas
dabis. ipsa pudore
proiecto tua facta
loquar. si copia detur, (545)
in populos ueniam; si siluis clausa tenebor,
implebo siluas et conscia saxa mouebo.
audiet haec aether et si deus ullus in illo est.’

Soon, when her mental state was restored, she rent her disheveled hair [like someone grieving, her arms ripped up by the beating,] and holding out her hands, she said, “Oh barbarian of horrible deeds, oh cruel one, did not my father’s orders with his dutiful tears move you? Nor care for my sister, nor my virginity, nor the bonds of marriage? [You have thrown everything into turmoil; I have become my sister’s rival, you a double husband, and the punishment of an enemy is owed to me.] Why don’t you take my life too, treacherous one, lest any disgraceful act remain for you? And if only you had done it before these unspeakable couplings; I would have had shades innocent of crime. Nevertheless, if the gods see these acts, if the powers of the gods are anything, if everything hasn’t perished along with me, at some point you will pay a penalty to me. I’ll throw away my shame and speak your deeds. If the opportunity is given, I will go among the people; if I’ll be held, closed in by these woods, I will fill up the woods and I will move the stones as accomplices. The aether will hear these things too, if there is any god in it.”

6. Tereus’ Direct Speech.

A) “uicimus!” exclamat “mecum mea uota feruntur.” (Ov. Met. 6.513)
“We have won!” he exclaims; “my prayers are carried along with me.”

B) tantaque nox animi est, “Ityn huc accersite!” dixit. (Ov. Met. 6.652)
So great is the darkness in his mind; he said, “Summon Itys here!”

7. Tereus’ “eloquence”: Ov. Met. 6.469.

facundum faciebat amor.
Love made [Tereus] eloquent.

8. Tereus’ other 19 verbs of speech.

This list notes verbs or nouns that indicate that the act of speaking or communicating verbally is being attributed to Tereus, either as a sole speaker or as a participant in a conversation: disque ipsi grates egere (435, with Procne); iussere (437); iubet ille carinas / in freta deduci (444); fausto committitur omine sermo (448); coeperat aduentus causam, mandata referre / coniugis (449-450); [coeperat] celeres missae spondere recursus (450); cupidoque reuertitur ore (467); agit sua uota sub illa (468); quotiensque rogabat / ulterius iusto (469-470); Procnen ita uelle ferebat (470); fassusque nefas (524); dat gemitus fictos (565); commentaque funera narrat (565); ubi sit quaerit (656); quaerenti (656); iterumque uocanti (656); ingenti mensas clamore repellit (661); uipereasque ciet Stygia de ualle sorores (662); seque uocat bustum miserabile nati (665).

9. Philomela weaves her tapestry: Ov. Met. 6.576-578

stamina barbarica suspendit callida tela
purpureas notas filis intexuit albis,
indicium sceleris.

She hung the ingenious warp from the barbaric loom and wove into the white threads red markings, an indictment of the crime.

10. Procne reads the tapestry: Ov. Met. 6.581-582.

euoluit uestes saeui matrona tyranni
germanaeque suae
carmen miserabile legit.

The wife of the savage tyrant unrolled the tapestry and read the miserable poem of her sister.


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