February 17, 2010

Ovid's Metamorphoses

For my lit project, I read Ovid's Metamorphoses.

DG and I planned to synchronize our reading of Metamorphoses, but he has put his lit project on hold after reading the first part of Don Quixote. He has instead returned to 20th century lit, an addict back to his fix. I will harass him with these posts until he starts his project again. Read Metamorphoses, DG, you coward.

On the Metamorphoses itself, I am not sure what I can say. I have not yet learned how to research classical lit in the way I know I how to research film, so I have no topics to muse on or amusing facts to dispatch. Unexpectedly, Metamorphoses was everything I expected it to be -- a dense course in classical mythology imbued with Ovid's clarity, wit, and charm.

I was most surprised by Pythagoras's long discourse in the final book, a summation of much of ancient philosophy. Surprised because Ovid so persuasively fits his project into a philosophical tradition (mostly a Hericlitean worldview). Philosophy had not been on my mind, but this section alerted me to philosophical ideas scattered throughout the book. Everything is in flux. Panta Rhei. Metamorphoses. &c. But most surprising -- and this is what I love about Ovid -- is that after Pythagoras explains the universe, the soul, and everything, he asserts his entire speech as an argument against eating meat; his philosophy is boiled down to nothing but a rationale for being vegetarian.

And, at the end of this final book, having given the reader a weighty blast of the Everything-is-Flux argument, Ovid writes: "Now I have finished my work, which nothing can ever destroy --" Ovid insists he (his work) is immortal. Ha! Ha! That Ovid! He refuses all consistency. Artists today are not that brave. How unfortunate that we don't have more Ovids!


DG said...


Ian said...


DG said...

well, yes