Philip Hardie, Francesco Ursini: Ovidio e la cultura europea. Interpretazioni e riscritture dal secondo dopoguerra al bimillenario della morte (1945–2017). Premessa di Carlo Ossola. in:

Gnomon, page 514 - 517

GNO, Volume 91 (2019), Issue 6, ISSN: 0017-1417, ISSN online: 0017-1417,

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B. Rochette: Mordeglia, Animali sui banchi di scuola 514 témoins de fables latines classiques, tardo-antiques et médiévales et de la RL qui peuvent être utiles pour étudier les développements du thème narratif entre la fin de l’Antiquité et le Moyen Âge. Le texte est accompagné d’une traduction italienne. Pour finir, le commentaire signale pour chacune des fables la version correspondante dans la RL, les réélaborations classiques, médio-latines et humanistiques, compare les différents textes avec les principales attestations latines du thème de la fable et met en évidence, le cas échéant, les particularités textuelles, linguistiques et grammaticales. Le FP constitue certainement le témoignage le plus important relatif au développement du genre de la fable dans l’Occident latin, d’abord à cause de la forme linguistique, plus proche des usages classiques que celle de la RL (ce qui conduit à supposer un recours à un original latin circulant peut-être dans la France centrale et septentrionale d’où provient le Parisinus Latinus 6503 et où ont été conservés les manuscrits les plus anciens de l’œuvre de Phèdre), ensuite pour les fortes ressemblances avec les fables du Romulus médiéval, surtout avec sa version la plus diffusée en Europe, la Recensio Gallicana. Ce travail, qui est complété par huit planches et des index, constitue, après les ouvrages de Giuseppe Flammini, Eleanor Dickey et Maria Chiara Scappaticcio, une contribution importante à l’histoire de l’éducation dans le monde grécoromain dans un contexte bilingue et un apport original à l’étude du genre littéraire de la fable gréco-latine, comme l’a bien mis en évidence Michel Pastoureau dans sa courte préface. Liège Bruno Rochette * Francesco Ursini: Ovidio e la cultura europea. Interpretazioni e riscritture dal secondo dopoguerra al bimillenario della morte (1945–2017). Premessa di Carlo Ossola. Roma: Editrice Apes 2017. 353 S. 25 €. The occasion of the putative bimillennium of Ovid’s death in 2017 was marked by numerous international conferences across Europe and beyond, a demonstration of the strong Europeanism and, indeed, globalism of the institution of classical studies. Beyond academe, however, the post-war European project is today subjected to increasing pressures, and the ideal of a pan-European identity becomes ever more imperiled. Francesco Ursini takes the occasion of the bimillennium of an author who, perhaps more than any other Greek or Roman author, even Virgil, has permeated and helped to form European culture, literature and art over the past two thousand years, in order to survey interpretations and rewritings of Ovid since the end of the second world war in 1945. That date was also marked by the publication of two books, one on Virgil and one on Ovid, each of which perpetuates currents of thought and aspirations of the 1930s, and each of which is prophetic of developments in the coming decades in the reception of these two great Augustan poets. The one was a novel, Hermann Broch’s ‘Der Tod des Virgil’ (New York 1945), the other a work of scholarship and literary criticism, Hermann Fränkel’s ‘Ovid: a poet between two worlds’ (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1945). Both books, in their very different discourses, project the image of a poet who writes in the awareness, obscurely felt it may be, that he is living in a period of transition be- GNOMON 6/91/2019 Ph. Hardie: Ursini, Ovidio e la cultura europea 515 tween two ages. The intuition of both books has been widely influential on the reception of Virgil and Ovid in the second half of the twentieth century, and on into the current century. A degree of convergence between the theses of both the novel and the work of scholarly criticism is not entirely coincidental, since Fränkel will surely have been aware of some of the Virgilian criticism of the 1930s, in particular Theodor Haecker’s ‘Vergil. Vater des Abendlandes’ (1931), on which Broch drew in constructing his Virgilian Endzeit stream of consciousness. That scholarship and creative writing interact in interesting and productive ways is one of the major threads that runs through this book. This conjunction is also a recurrent concern of Theodore Ziolkowski’s ‘Ovid and the moderns’ (Ithaca and London 2005), which deals with the reception of Ovid and Ovid’s works in literature, from 1912 to 2002. The other underlying project of Ursini’s study, and again one that is shared with Ziolkowski’s study, is to pose the question of how far both critical trends and creative rewritings of Ovid and his works may be seen as reflecting, or engaging with, dominant aspects of modern and postmodern consciousness and culture. Ursini’s study diverges from that of Ziolkowski both in the narrower period of time under consideration, and in the organization of the volume. While Ziolkowski follows, for the most part, a single chronological trajectory, Ursini divides his book into three sections, each of which is partly organized chronologically. The first, ‘La critica Ovidiana e il discorso contemporaneo’, takes a detailed look at five monographs dedicated to the Metamorphoses, or to the whole of Ovid’s œuvre: Hermann Fränkel’s ‘Ovid. A poet between two worlds’ (1945); Patrick Wilkinson’s ‘Ovid recalled’ (1955); Brooks Otis’ ‘Ovid as an epic poet’ (1966, with significantly different second thoughts in the second edition of 1970); Italo Calvino’s ‘Gli indistinti confini’ (an essay published originally in 1979 as an introduction to an Einaudi edition of the Metamorphoses); Gianpiero Rosati’s ‘Narciso e Pigmalione. Illusione e spettacolo nelle ‹Metamorfosi› di Ovidio’ (1983); Charles Segal’s collection of Ovidian essays published in Italian as ‘Ovidio e la poesia del mito. Saggi sulle ‹Metamorfosi›’ (1991); Philip Hardie’s ‘Ovid’s poetics of illusion’ (2002). The chapter is rounded off with a survey of some books or articles which aim to give a balanced view of ways of reading the Metamorphoses, by Karl Galinsky, Stephen Hinds, Niklas Holzberg, Alessandro Barchiesi, and concluding with a work published in the bimillenary year of 2017 by a writer and scholar who, like Calvino, is not a professional Ovidian, Nicola Giardini’s ‘Con Ovidio. La felicità di leggere un classico’, which shares with Calvino’s essay a vision of the Ovidian cosmos as a universe in continual transformation (a view which needs to be qualified by an awareness of the predominance in the Metamorphoses of narratives of ‘terminal metamorphosis’). Along the way Ursini also samples some of the academic reviews of the several works. This work-based structure can give the effect of something of a catalogue (and the same is true of the other two major sections of the book). The writing is, however, never less than fluent, and often very insightful. This selective bibliography also means that many important twentieth- and twenty-first-century Ovidians are mentioned only in passing, if at all, and also that some of the major approaches to the Metamorphoses in the last seventy years go without substantial discussion, such as narratology, intertextuality, genre, and gender. The overall picture that emerges GNOMON 6/91/2019 Ph. Hardie: Ursini, Ovidio e la cultura europea 516 from the review of the selected works presents a contrast between critical approaches that seek unity and structure in the Metamorphoses (chiefly Brooks Otis), and those that diagnose fragmentariness, inconsistency, uncertainty, Calvino’s ‘indistinti confini’ – in short a loose checklist of features that are associated with the postmodern condition. Ursini exercises considerable ingenuity in constructing links between the critics and the modern and postmodern Zeitgeist, or, in the case of Fränkel, a link with the critic’s own life-history (a refugee from Nazi Germany to the new world, in more senses than one, of California). Some of these links are more cogent than others. For example, the kind of structural analysis of the Metamorphoses undertaken by Brooks Otis or Walter Ludwig has little in common with structuralism proper, which does however inform the analyses of Gregson Davis’ ‘The death of Procris: ‹amor› and the hunt in Ovid’s Metamorphoses’ (1983). The second section, ‘Le Metamorfosi nell’età dell’incertezza’, examines a series of creative rewritings of the Metamorphoses, taking as point of departure the 1994 landmark collection of verse adaptations and translations of passages from the Metamorphoses, ‘After Ovid. New metamorphoses’, edited by Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun, followed by Ted Hughes’ single-authored ‘Tales from Ovid’ (1997). Ursini then reviews prose rewritings, Alex Shakar’s ‘The New York Metamorphoses’ (1996) and the collection of stories in ‘Ovid metamorphosed’, edited by Philip Terry (2000); the illustrated ‘Shapeshifters. Tales from Ovid’s ‹Metamorphoses›’, by Adrian Mitchell and Alan Lee (2009); the theatrical adaptations ‘Polaroid stories’, by Naomi Iizuka (1997), and ‘Metamorphoses’, by Mary Zimmerman (1998); and the film adaptation ‘Metamorphoses’, by Christophe Honoré (2014). General consideration of these works is followed by an analysis of the adaptations in them of nine of the most famous episodes in Ovid’s poem. In the one-by-one ticking off of each modern work that contains a version of each of these nine myths the book’s tendency to list becomes most obtrusive. More positively, Ursini, taking to heart an adjuration on how to do reception studies from Stephen Hinds (from whom Ursini repeatedly picks up the notion of a (post)modern ‘defamiliarization’), sets himself the task of reading each of the chosen works within a broad view of their contemporary contexts of production and reception. He also has an eye open for possible rapprochements between modern critical studies of Ovid and each of these works. Sometimes critics and creative writers are out of synch, as when in 1997 Ted Hughes, in the introduction to ‘After Ovid’, revived Fränkel’s image of a poet between a decadent pagan and a dawning Christian world, an image long outmoded in the academy. A striking feature of the rewritings by Shakar and Iizuka is the transference of Ovidian myths from their predominantly idealizing rural locations to the edgy urban locations of New York, where marginalized characters undergo strange transformations, a dystopian urban environment already explored in the postindustrial decay of Christoph Ransmayr’s ‘Die letzte Welt’. One thing that emerges from this catalogue raisonné is the sheer variety of different writerly responses to the Metamorphoses; the poikilia of Ovid’s poem is capable of stimulating modern authors in any number of unpredictable ways. That in itself is a mark of the continuing ‘relevance’ of the poem. Ursini makes a brave shot of drawing together a number of constants in this kaleidoscopic reception: the recycling of Ovid’s perpetuum carmen in a galaxy of fragments; the insistent mod- GNOMON 6/91/2019 Ph. Hardie: Ursini, Ovidio e la cultura europea 517 ernization of a text which is felt already to have something intrinsically ‘modern’ about it; the Metamorphoses’ capacity to respond to a present-day sense of living at the end of an epoch, between one era and the next; and, finally, a strong sense of uncertainty, instability, illusoriness that speaks to a postmodern awareness. This is a sense of indistinction that might also be recuperated for a ‘finalistic’ vision of moving towards a new age by redefinition as a condition of inbetweenness. (Although if the phrase ‘age of uncertainty’ was first given currency by J. K. Galbraith in 1977, it is an age in which we have now been living for forty years, waiting for Godot!) The third section, ‘L’esilio di Ovidio e la condizione postmoderna’, examines in detail five novels written in the period 1945–2017 on the subject of Ovid’s exile: Vintila Horia’s ‘Dieu est né en exil’ (1960); David Malouf’s ‘An imaginary life’ (1978); Christoph Ransmayr’s ‘Die letzte Welt’ (1988); Luca Desiato’s ‘Sulle rive del Mar Nero’ (1992); Marin Mincu’s ‘Il diario di Ovidio’ (1997). This is supplemented by a rapid review of some other narratives and poems inspired by Ovidian exile. In his final summing up of what is shared between these works, Ursini notes (319) «un sistematico rovesciamento della visione ovidiana dell’esilio»: in the modern novels exile is experienced as preferable to the reality left behind; rather than registering a diminution of the conditions of life and a loss of hope, the novels recurrently develop a yearning towards a spiritual renewal (Fränkel’s ‘between two worlds’ again), or a longing for a reunion with nature; where the ‘real’ Ovid can only try to reestablish connections with friends and relatives far away in Rome, the novelistic Ovid in exile establishes a special relationship with figures of women or of children. Metamorphosis also pervades many of these modern rewritings of Ovid’s exile, most notably Ransmayr’s ‘Die letzte Welt’; that at least is consistent with Ovid’s strategy in the exile poetry of inscribing Tomitan autobiography into the fictional tales of the Metamorphoses. Ursini’s overarching explanation for the striking infidelity of much of the corpus of modern rewritings to the picture that emerges from Ovid’s own exile poetry is – and this will not surprise – that it projects a post-modern sensibility on to the biography of the poet. Ursini is a sure-footed guide through a large number of modern rewritings of Ovid, combining scholarly reliability with a sophisticated literary-critical sense, and with the ability to draw out from the, at times overwhelming, mass of detail suggestive synthetic generalizations about the modern and postmodern world’s response to Ovid. Of course, even this is only a part of the picture, and is restricted, with some exceptions, to the textual reception of the Metamorphoses. Other media have also joined in the fun, appropriately for a poem which invests so heavily in visual enargeia, and which, it is claimed, has affinities with the stage form of pantomime. For example, as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s London 2012 Festival the National Gallery in London put on, in collaboration with The Royal Ballet, ‘Metamorphosis: Titian 2012’. This set in dialogue the Gallery’s own magnificent holdings of Titian’s poesie with new works by contemporary artists, accompanied by responses to Ovid’s text and to Titian’s paintings from leading British and Irish poets, and by three new ballets commissioned for The Royal Ballet: Cambridge Philip Hardie GNOMON 6/91/2019

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