Contemporary Ars Project: Comparing Ovid’s Remedia Amoris (1 BCE) and Jose Gonzalez’s How to Get Over Your Ex: How to Put the Past Behind You and Become a Superior Man In 7 Easy Steps (2007 CE)
It is really quite striking to see how many of the ideas presented in Ovid’s Remedia Amoris have filtered into twenty-first century literature. Most of the advice that Ovid provides to a newly single man can be similarly found in a modern “break-up guide book”. While Ovid’s text seems to be connected with the Ars Amatoria and is unique for it’s time, today a whole industry has been created to write books and magazine articles, to be the topic of songs and shows, and to have specialized therapists who help people “move on with their lives”. Also, while Ovid’s text seems primarily directed towards men, this genre of literature from the twenty-first century seems heavily weighted towards helping women. This essay shall point out many of the similarities as well as significant differences between Ovid’s Remedia Amoris from the start of first century CE and Jose Gonzalez’s How to Get Over Your Ex: How to Put the Past Behind You and Become a Superior Man In 7 Easy Steps from 2007.
One clear way that these two texts overlap is with the personal anecdotes that the authors wish to include. Gonzalez, throughout his book, makes mention of his own break-ups, his feelings, and how he got through his problems. For example, Gonzalez says, “During my own time of suffering, I came across a self-help book by Dr. Debora Phillips that described a number of different techniques to get over an ex….” Another time, Gonzalez tells the reader: “One evening shortly after my own break-up, when I was feeling down and depressed, I switched on the television set and watched a program about some couple who had all but given up on their marriages.” Ovid does not discuss as many personal experiences but still does includes passages such as: “Not long ago a certain girl had hooked me; she didn’t suit, our tastes were not the same….” Another time Ovid says, “Often, when ill, I’ve had to swallow bitter doses and been denied a decent meal.” Both authors seem to be establishing trust with the reader as well as proclaiming themselves to be knowledgeable teachers who have had first-hand experiences.
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For this extra credit assignment, you will read one of Ovid’s erotodidactic successors, comparing one contemporary, best-selling guide to seduction or dating with the advice found in the Ars Amatoria.
- Select and read a modern, bestselling guide to dating or seduction. You might ask around to see if friends or relatives can recommend a recent book, or peruse the bestsellers on Amazon (e.g. the rules of dating, dating, dating for men, dating for women)
- Compare the advice found in your contemporary guide to that found in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria. How much has the art of seduction changed in 2010 years? While your comparison should include a précis of the modern book, the exact form of your comparison is up to you and the form of the book you are reviewing. You could write an essay, annotate a list of rules with similarities and differences to Ovid, focus on a particularly compelling point of similarity or difference, etc. Your writing need not be too lengthy (I think 3-to-4 pages should be sufficient, although by all means be more extensive if you would like).
- Your comparison should be emailed to me before the end of finals (May 14th).
An assignment that intelligently compares the modern and ancient guidebooks can add as much as 9 points to your grade on the final exam.
This poem is one from Penelope to Odysseus expressing how she misses him and wishes he were at home. Having worried about him during the Trojan War, she continues to worry even though the war is over, the Greeks have won, and Odysseus is still alive. She expresses how the uncertainty bothers her and how she wishes to know where he currently is. She wishes that he were still in Troy where his position could be ascertained; or that some news of him would reach her. She then expresses how the state of things is deteriorating at home and how she wants Odysseus to return.
The myth is about Odysseus, who leaves behind Penelope when he goes to fight in the Trojan War. After the war he make his way home to Ithaca, but it takes him about nine years as he encounters obstacle after obstacle thrown at him by Poseidon. While Odysseus makes his journey, Penelope faithfully waits for him back in Ithaca. There, she wards off the suitors by weaving a shroud for Laertes. She asks that they wait until she finishes, but she delays in the task by unraveling her weaving every night. Finally, Odysseus returns and proves his identity to her before she accepts him and he takes his rightful place as her husband and the ruler of Ithaca.
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Heroides XI is written from Canace to her brother Macareus just before she commits suicide. This poem includes details concerning the incestuous relationship Canace had with her brother, the unexpected pregnancy and birth of their son, Aeolus’ (her father’s) anger and disgust for their amorous relationship and the birth of her child, Aeolus’ decision to send the child away to be killed, Aeolus’ encouragement for Canace to commit suicide, and finally Canace’s pity for the short life of her son. Interestingly, this poem focuses much more on her young child and her father’s anger rather than describing the forbidden love she had with her brother. This letter thus shifts frequently from addressing Macareus, Aeolus, and her son. Also, after understanding the story and events that surrounds this letter, one realizes the misinformation and unfortunate timing of this poem.
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Heroides VII, Dido Aeneae, is Ovid’s rendering of a letter Dido might have sent to Aeneas before committing suicide after Aeneas left her to pursue his destiny in Italy. There are many typical elegiac themes like power/submission, miles amoris, and exclusis amoris present in this letter; other themes include deception, crime, punishment, and, of course, wretchedness. Dido says her punishment, dying, will be less than her crime of loving Aeneas (inde minor culpa poema futura mea est, 87); she deserves to die. On the other hand, Dido also bitterly reproaches Aeneas for his deception (his crime), even “playing the pity card” with her future suicide.
Joshua Reynolds. The Death of Dido (1781)
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Here are the poems in the Amores that the members of the class will be working on for their projects. I strongly encourage everyone to discuss her project with her classmates:
- Emily (3.11a/b): I have selected poems 11a and 11b for my Commentary Project. I consider these poems to be the beginning of the end of the Amores. I am interested to explore how this poem relates to other poems in the Amores, to find the particular clues throughout the Amores that lead to the conclusion within these poems. I also want to compare these two sections to each other and to similar works by Catullus, for instance, in Carmina 8 (even though the meter is choliambic) and Carmina 85. I will also look through Tibullus and By making all these comparisons, I hope to come to a general conclusion about the nature of the elegiac lover. The poems themselves interest me because they are so different from the rest of the Amores. Both poems show the narrator’s sufferings through love; he no longer makes it seem like all is well within their relationship, but reflects that he has only been seeing what he wanted before. These poems also show just how much of a “domina” Corinna really is over the narrator.
- Leah (2.15): For this project I hope to analyze in depth Amores 2.15. I was quite surprised when I first read this text because there is a short New Kingdom Egyptian love poem (from the Cairo Love Songs Collection) that presents the identical theme of a man wishing to be a ring on the finger of his lover. This Amores poem also made me recall some of the other Egyptian love poems from the Cairo Collection where the lover wishes to be a Nubian maidservant who would attend to his woman’s every need or even a lover’s wish to be a launderer so that he might touch the garments that recently touched the woman’s body. I would greatly enjoy the opportunity to explore the connection between Ovid’s poem and the Egyptian literature. Besides this similarity with the Egyptian New Kingdom poems and a lover’s association, transformation, and jealous of an inanimate object, the Amores poem includes mentioning of witchcraft and magic, sexual allusions and descriptions, ideas about the gift-giving lover, and there is a curious lack of description or identification of the woman but rather her sex appeal is emphasized. It might also be interesting to learn more about the archaeological evidence or other textual descriptions of rings and signet rings from this time period. Finally, this Ovidian ring-poem seemed to influence later works such as John Donne’s The Flea and Amores 2.15 can be compared to Tennyson’s The Miller’s Daughter and Barnabe Barnes’ Parthenophil and Parthenophe.
- Sophia (2.1): I’m really interested in humanity’s interaction with supernatural forces across cultures, ranging from personal connection with the divine to the manipulation of reality with one’s will through rituals and spells. Although I’ve studied many different magical systems, I know little about the use of spells in the Greco-Roman world. I would like study Amores 2.1, because of its mention of magic. Ovid mentions that there is magic in poetry, and carmen has the double meaning of both a poem or a spell. Through Amores 2.1, I would like to look at the role of magic in Roman elegy and love. How were poetry and magic connected? What spells are Ovid referring to in his poem such as “to turn back the sun,” and who in Roman society would perform such magic? I’d possibly compare this to Amores 1.8, as the powers of poetry seem very similar to Dipsas’ magic powers. Both Propertius and Tibullus mention magic in their poetry as well, and I could compare pieces of their poetry with Ovid’s poem. I’d also like to research Roman love spells and their role in elegy.
- Kammy (3.14): I’ve chosen this poem because it gives interesting insight into the nature of his relationship with Corinna. Throughout the Amores he approaches Corinna with varying attitudes. While he expresses desire for her, he also expresses fear of her adultery (3.5). I’d like to explore the conflicts (if they are in fact conflicts) presented by this poem. Here he openly acknowledges her infidelity and tells her to be discreet about her activities – and to deny all if caught in the act. This begs the question of who Corinna is, if she is being adulterous at all, and to what extent the author is aware of this in his self delusion. I would also like to look at a comparison between 3.5 and 2.19 and examine the changing role that the author/Ovid has. He transitions between the roles of lover and teacher, but through both perspectives he constantly maintains the ‘game’ of love.
Diecula: diei Veneris meridies (1 p.m. on Friday, 3/5)
Time limit: There is a three hour time limit for this exam; but I anticipate it will take less than 120 minutes.
Format: This exam will consist of translation, short answers (on literary and grammatical matters), and an essay.
N.B. Fac hanc probātiōnem sine auxiliō librōrum aut notārum aut amīcōrum. (Complete this exam without the assistance from books, notes, or friends).
This exam will cover:
- Basic information about Ovid’s life and works.
- The form and meter of elegy.
- Latin readings from Ovid’s Amores, including recognition of figurae quotidianae and Ovid’s use (or abuse) of elegiac topoi.
- English readings from Ovid’s Amores and related elegies by Propertius, Tibullus, and Catullus.
- Information presented in class and in the secondary literature you have read about elegy, elegiac sub-genres (paraklausithyron, epicedion, diptych, etc.) and elegiac topoi (be prepared to discuss with reference to specific moments in the Amores). For more on these, see the ever-updated list in his blog post.
After you have completed your exam, please answer these Feedback Questions:
1) How long did it take you to complete this quiz (N.B. this question is asked only to better calibrate exams and will not be considered one iota in your evaluation).
2) Was there a category of information that you learned in class that you would have liked to have seen on this exam?
Heroides Available for the Project
I. Penelope Ulixi
III. Briseis Achilli
V. Oenone Paridi
VII. Dido Aeneae — Emily
VIII. Hermione Orestae
XI. Canace Macareo — Leah
XIII. Laodamia Protesilao
XV. Sappho Phaoni
XVI. Paris Helenae
XVII. Helene Paridi
Ovid smoothly transitions to 2.1. He begins strongly, still speaking as the poet. Here, he moves from discussing poetry to specifically his love poetry. Again we see the comparison of the lover to a soldier. His elegies are stronger than Jupiter himself as well as a list of other famous heroes. We can see a transition from 1.1 to 1.15 and 2.1. First he doesn’t want to write elegies. Then he becomes proud of himself as a poet. Finally, he asserts the power of love poetry, which to him is stronger than epic poetry. We can also see that by again bringing up the subject of love, he transitions in 2.1 from the poet to the role of the lover, which he continues in Book 2.