Playing Gods: Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Politics of Fictionby Andrew Feldherr
This book offers a novel interpretation of politics and identity in Ovid's epic poem of transformations, the Metamorphoses. Reexamining the emphatically fictional character of the poem, Playing Gods argues that Ovid uses the problem of fiction in the text to redefine the power of poetry in Augustan Rome. The book also provides the fullest account yet/i>/i>
This book offers a novel interpretation of politics and identity in Ovid's epic poem of transformations, the Metamorphoses. Reexamining the emphatically fictional character of the poem, Playing Gods argues that Ovid uses the problem of fiction in the text to redefine the power of poetry in Augustan Rome. The book also provides the fullest account yet of how the poem relates to the range of cultural phenomena that defined and projected Augustan authority, including spectacle, theater, and the visual arts.
Andrew Feldherr argues that a key to the political as well as literary power of the Metamorphoses is the way it manipulates its readers' awareness that its stories cannot possibly be true. By continually juxtaposing the imaginary and the real, Ovid shows how a poem made up of fictions can and cannot acquire the authority and presence of other discursive forms. One important way that the poem does this is through narratives that create a "double vision" by casting characters as both mythical figures and enduring presences in the physical landscapes of its readers. This narrative device creates the kind of tensions between identification and distance that Augustan Romans would have felt when experiencing imperial spectacle and other contemporary cultural forms.
Full of original interpretations, Playing Gods constructs a model for political readings of fiction that will be useful not only to classicists but to literary theorists and cultural historians in other fields.
"Feldherr's most influential work to date, this book sheds light on how, in ancient Roman literature, narrative viewpoint constructs and reconstructs power relations in the real world."Choice
"Andrew Feldherr has produced a complex and sophisticated new reading of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Make no mistake, this is a dense and difficult book to read, but it offers many rewards to the assiduous reader. . . . Close readings throughout the work especially reveal Feldherr's theoretical sophistication, philological expertise, and literary sensitivity."Sara Myers, New England Classical Journal
"Feldherr's nuanced close readings and original insights are entirely persuasive. Like Ovid's carmen perpetuum, while it can be sampled usefully for individual stories, readings or chapters, it is far better readand re-readas an interconnected whole. And the story it tells about the politics of Ovidian fiction makes highly rewarding reading."Genevieve Liveley, Phoenix
"While its target audience may, arguably, exclude the non-expert, Playing Gods will be equally interesting and relevant to literary theorists and critics and cultural historians. Feldherr offers an attractive new model for reading politics in a work of fiction, and pushes, considerably further than recent studies of the Metamorphoses, the boundaries of our understanding of the interplay between narrative and exegesis, fiction and reality, and content and form in the reception of Ovid's poem."Laura Jansen, Journal of Roman Studies
- Princeton University Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)
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Philip Hardie, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
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Meet the Author
Andrew Feldherr is professor of classics at Princeton University. He is the author of Spectacle and Society in Livy's History and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians.
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