What Could She Say? : The Problem of Female Silence in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jourdan Dealy, Student (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site: http://library.unca.edu/
Evan Gurney

Abstract: The sexual violence against women in Ovid’s Metamorphoses has been discussed at length through many different lenses. His vivid rape scenes have been transformed into translations of his narratives, from literary interpretations to paintings and sculptures, just as his female characters are transformed in his poetry. Ovid has been accused by many feminist scholars as being a misogynist, unable to understand or sympathize with his female audience or characters. Although the feminist lens is undoubtedly important to understanding Ovid’s work, this thesis posits that an historical grounding of the text is equally imperative. One key fact to consider is Ovid’s own silencing, through banishment and censorship by the dominant male figure of Caesar Augustus. Ovid’s silencing by Augustus mirrors the silencing of women in his work. The conservative Augustan culture and Ovid’s biography are important factors when looking at the tales of Daphne, Philomela, and the ivory girl, among others. We must also examine the methods Ovid uses to silence these women. A male’s voice, Ovid’s own, is used to describe these scenes which are found within long narratives of male discourse and fantasy. When examined within this context, this thesis contends that Ovid critiques such emphasis on the male perspective by using pervasive irony throughout his narratives. Read in this way, we see how in recounting the violence and silencing these women faced, he is able to give them a voice.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Ovid, Metamorphoses, women in literature, interpretation

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