Ovid in Retrospect: Revision, Reflection, Reception
A Panel Sponsored by the International Ovidian Society to be held at the SCS Annual Meeting in January of 2024
Abstracts Due: March 17, 2023
Quem tamen esse deum te dicam, Iane biformis?
nam tibi par nullum Graecia numen habet.
ede simul causam, cur de caelestibus unus
sitque quod a tergo sitque quod ante vides.
“But what god shall I say that you are, two-formed Janus?
For Greece has no divinity equivalent to you.
Tell me now the reason why you alone among the gods
gaze upon both what is behind you and what is ahead.”
The unique ability of the Roman divinity Janus to look both backwards and forwards at once, as explicated above in a passage from the Fasti, is richly suggestive of Ovid’s relationship to literary production. Ovid is a markedly self-conscious writer, whose poetic works constantly slide between backward-gazing, inward-looking, and self-reflective postures. His literary corpus is as rich with receptions of earlier works as it is brimming with invitations for other authors to respond in kind.
The Heroides exemplify this intertextual richness as they rework familiar myths, balancing infusions of originality with constant reference back to a vast body of literary precedents. Ovid’s subsequent experiments in amatory elegy, starting with the Amores, respond with sharp-eyed sensitivity to the conventions of his elegiac predecessors, as the poet-lover Naso participates in the molding of the scripta puella into a fluid reflection of his own erotic and generic commitments, and as Corinna resists bending to the will of Naso’s prescriptive textual and sexual politics. The Ars Amatoria (alongside the Remedia Amoris and Medicamina) then recasts the erotic persona as expert and teacher, reviewing the literary and thematic concerns of the Amores through a didactic lens.
Throughout Ovid’s Metamorphoses, we encounter characters who embody the confused or clarifying effects (and affects) of reflective, doubled, or centripetal experience, like Narcissus, Io, and Medusa, each of whom gazes at a distorted reflection and suffers a euphoric or dysphoric response: self-obsessive eroticism; disoriented fear; the monstrous power of their own gaze. The Fasti, in its cyclical treatment of calendrical and ritual time, produces a series of backward-glancing vignettes exploring the contours of the mythical, divine, and political origins for contemporary practices. In exile, Ovid casts a retrospective gaze upon his own career, inscribing the anxiety of lost ingenium into the Tristia and Epistulae while concurrently applying careful revisions to works already completed. To this day, the whole of Ovid’s literary corpus presents fertile ground for continual acts of reception, revision, and reimagination.
For these reasons, the International Ovidian Society invites papers on the topic of RETROSPECTION, broadly defined. The Latin roots of “retrospection” suggest a literal looking-backwards, a turn of the gaze that may produce a reflexive confrontation with the self. Retrospection can inform identity, but it can also dislocate it. It can illuminate past experience, or muddy it, or magnify it. We invite, in the spirit of Janus, engagements with Ovid that look backward and forward at once; that revise, reflect, and receive Ovid even as they witness Ovid’s own acts of revision, reflection, and reception; and that construct, from multiple directions, a fuller and more complex understanding of Ovid in Retrospect.
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
- Ovid’s self-conscious reworking of his own material
- Inter- and intratextuality as retrospection
- Reflection and mirroring as metaphor
- The affective activity of self-examination
- Formal and thematic expressions of retrospection (reflexive pronouns, repetitions, ring compositions, the prefix ‘re’)
- Doubling and repetition (mirror images, twins, mistaken identity, impersonation)
- Distortion or deception as consequences of the backward-turning gaze
- Textual and conceptual reshapings of the elegiac puella
- Translation as an act of retrospection
- Ovidian revisions and reevaluations of his own texts from exile
- Receptions as retrospect (Ovidian receptions of earlier authors; later receptions of Ovid; Ovidian receptions of Ovid)
Please submit your abstract for a 20-minute paper using this Microsoft Form by March 17, 2023 at 5:00pm EST. The text of the abstract should not mention the name of the author. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words (excluding bibliography); follow the SCS guidelines for individual abstracts. Submissions will be reviewed anonymously.