Seminar in Renaissance British Literature: Renaissance Poetry and Drama

English 8220
Making Change:Ovid and his Afterlives
Section 1
William Kerwin

Making Change: Ovid and his Afterlives

In this course, we will consider the work and afterlife of Ovid, perhaps the most adapted poet of the last two thousand years. His focus on the instabilities of forms—bodily forms, social forms, poetic forms—gives his poetry a generative force that has encouraged hosts of later writers.  We will read, of course, The Metamorphoses, and we will also read Ovid’s collection of women’s soliloquies, The Heroides; his love sketches, The Amores; and selections from some of the exile poems known as Tristia.  Renaissance authors will include the poet-playwrights John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, and Shakespeare, as well as poets whose transformations and translations of The Heroides and The Amores help build the broad English complaint and elegy traditions. Students will be expected to engage with contemporary critical approaches dealing with those issues.   From Lyly, we will read the plays Gallathea and Midas; from Shakespeare, the plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Titus Andronicus, as well as scenes from other plays and three longer poems: “A Lover’s Complaint,” “Venus and Adonis,” and “The Rape of Lucrece”; and from Marlowe, the poem “Hero and Leander” and some of his translations of The Amores.  Like early modern authors, contemporary poets have turned to Ovid to re-embody some of the most pressurized cultural issues.  Following Ovid, these appropriations and adaptations raise a host of questions, many of them circulating around issues of sexuality, identity, violence, voice, poetic authority, narrative flexibility, and gender.  Twentieth-century Ovidian lyric will include readings from the 1994 anthology After Ovid.