University of Notre Dame

Metamorphosis in Literature and Art: Ovid and his Echoes

Course Number: CLAS 13186-1
Instructor: W. Martin Bloomer

In this class we shall trace the strains of classical mythology in literature and art. We shall approach this vast and ongoing topic by focusing on the Roman poet Ovid’s great poem, the Metamorphoses, and its influences upon western art and literature. What are these stories about and why don’t they simply pass away? We have after all other myths and other modes of understanding the world and humans’ place in it. The impulse to imagine a world of radical and inescapable change has attracted poets and artists such as Dante and Shakespeare, Botticelli, Bernini, Dali and very recently Ted Hughes, Louise Glück, Anish Kapoor, and Seamus Heaney. Connections with folklore, magic, and religion—those texts and stories that promise transformation of the reader and the external world—will be explored. We will study the graphic arts as much as the literary as we explore Ovid’s ideas of the transformation of the body, the capacity of the human body for allegory, and how the fragility of identity has influenced later artists and authors.

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