GABBLER RECOMMENDS: How a Woman Becomes a Lake By Jia Tolentino

‘These days of fear and sadness show no sign of abating. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt lake-like—cool and still.

Just as a person does not wish to become a motionless body of water for no reason, girls don’t get to turn into lakes on a whim. I’ve been rereading Ovid lately—the clean and gorgeous Rolfe Humphries translation of the Metamorphoses, published in 1955—and, in Book V, the nymph Arethusa tells Ceres the story of how she was transformed into a spring. Out hunting alone on a hot day, she found a silent, clear river with silver willows on the banks. She took off her clothes and went swimming, only to hear a “curious kind of murmur / From deep down under”—the river god Alpheus. In “that hoarse voice he had,” Arethusa says, Alpheus asked her, “Where are you going in such a hurry, Arethusa?” She began running away from him, “naked, for my clothes / Were on the other bank, and all the more / He kept on coming; naked, so he thought / I was readier for the taking. So I fled.” She kept running, through fields and mountains and “pathless places,” with the sun at her back and Alpheus’ shadow looming over her shoulder, frightened at “the way his labored breathing / Blew on the back of my hair.”’

[Via]

EPICS

epicpoetry1

No narcissism here. Nope.

On Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

“It is hard to be sure how much Ovid is in control of his own effects. Is it that he cannot resist a clever turn of phrase, as some readers already thought in antiquity? Or is it the ethos of the poem that cheerfulness should keep breaking in? But perhaps this uncertainty is part of the tease.

The Metamorphoses was very widely read in the Middle Ages and after, and it thus became for many centuries Europe’s chief source for classical mythology: Ovid’s, essentially, are the gods who crowd those Renaissance canvases and sprawl across those Baroque ceilings. It is easy, therefore, to get the impression that classical mythology was normally like this, but it was no. Ovid’s way of handling the gods was new. We have seen Aristophanes making fun of them, but still with the sense that at the back of it all that they are real and powerful beings. Ovid turns them into counters in a game’ he invites the reader, as a sophisticate like himself, to look down upon them, a little as Theocritus invited his friend to look down on Polyphemus, but with less human sympathy. The game is to suck all the numen out of them. An Olympian god is turned into an awkwardly boastful swain, a goddess into a naive ingenue.

Some of the humour is cheerfully broad. When Daphne is fleeing from Apollo, he suggests to her that if she runs more slowly he will pursue more slowly too; it is as though the pursuit were a game played for the reader’s amusement. (Ovid also notices that she looks even prettier in flight.) Apollo also boasts of the important places where is is worshiped and points out that Jupiter is his father. Jupiter himself, courting the maiden Io, observes that he is not one of your plebeian gods but the one who holds the sceptre and launches the thunderbolts. Sometimes the humour is slyer: when one of the nymphs, ravished by a god, becomes pregnant, the virgin goddess Diana is too innocent to realize what has happened. Ovid adds wryly, ‘The nymphs are said to have noticed.’

His account of Daedalus and Icarus shows his narrative at its most engaging. The tale of the youth who flew too high, so that the wax of his wings melted and he fell to his death, lends itself to either of two morals: on disobedience (his father, Daedalus, had told him not to), or on pride (flying too high). For a moment it seems that Ovid will take the moral path: Daedalus tells his son to take the middle course, for whereas the sun is a danger if he goes too high, if he goes too low over the sea the spray will weigh the wings down. This sounds like a metaphor for the idea of virtue as the mean between two opposite virtues. But Ovid gestures at this possibility only to toss it aside. He makes Icarus a child, an innocent: the picture of him getting in his inventor father’s way as he works on the wings in charmingly done. And Icarus flies high because he is ‘touched with desire for heaven’; that is sheer glorious aspiration, and we can hardly resist it. But as we are preparing to shed a tear Ovid suddenly turns the tale into a just so story (why the partridge flies low to the ground), and Daedalus turns from sympathetic victim into a past murderer. There was a partridge in a bush by the place where he was burying his son; and by strange coincidence it had previously been his nephew, Partridge, whom he had killed from jealousy by throwing him from the Acropolis in Athens, which is why the bird avoids heights. The switch from heroic myth to animal fable, from sentiment to quaintness, is deliberately incongruous. It is easy to think of a smoother way of moving from Icarus to Partridge, but Ovid prefers the comic deflation.” – Classical Literature, Richard Jenkyns, 2016.

Woman, Automaton:

 

‘But just why are automatons so attractive? And just what is this “perfect woman” anyway? Rounding up a veritable sorority of artificial Eves, Julie Wosk delves into the issues in her latest book My Fair Ladies, casting an analytical eye over female depictions, both physical and fictitious, to explore the history and the future of Woman 2.0.

The fantasy is far from a modern phenomenon. Even in Ancient Rome, poets were toying with the notion of crafting their ideal partner. “In Ovid’s myth of Pygmalion [he’s] dissatisfied with real women so he creates a beautiful sculpture,” explains Wosk. Since then the “perfect woman” has found herself depicted in myriad forms, from physical automatons to slick celluloid creations. But whatever their form, the underlying traits are often strikingly similar. “I think the notion of perfection has long been imbibed with this idea of a woman who is docile and easily controlled, compliant and unthreatening and that she is somehow superior to real women because of that,” says Wosk. “And almost always they love to cook, are sexually available and they share men’s interests.” Silence, it would seem, is also perceived as golden: “In a lot of [the films] the woman doesn’t talk,” says Wosk.’

Read the rest.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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On the prophetic:

“In the last lines of the Metamorphoses, Ovid boldly claims that he too will become immortal through the eternal fame of his poem. After two millennia, in a changed world that even Ovid could not have imagined, his boast turns out to have been prophetic.”

-Sara Myers on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.