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Assigned: Publius Ovidius Naso. From Metamorphoses: Books 1-4, from Book 5 "The Rape of Proserpine," "Arethusa"; from Book 6: "Tereus, Procne, and Philomela"; from Book 8: "Daedalus and Icarus"; from Book 10: "Hyacinth," "Pygmalion," "Orpheus and Euridyce"; from Book 11: "The Death of Orpheus"; from Book 15: "The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar" and "Epilogue."
1. How does the narrative structure of Book One suit the subject of Ovid's poem? In responding, consider at least two of the following sub-questions:
a) What does the narrator ask of the gods in his brief invocation? What hopes does he advance for his poem?
b) How does the narrator transition from his description of the Four Ages into the Flood Story? What comes between these two recountings, and what significance does this interlude hold for the material surrounding it?
c) What logic underlies the transition (440ff) from the new creation to the story of Apollo and Daphne? What ties them together?
d) What connects the Apollo/Daphne story with the Jove/Io Story? (cf. 573ff)
e) What is the connecting link between the Jove/Io story and Phaethon? (753ff)
"The Creation" (pp. 1-3)
2. How was the Earth created (6-87), and by whom? How does this creation account differ from, the one offered in Genesis, if you are familiar with that account?
3. Who created humans, and why? (73-87) How did they differ from animals? What does Ovid's handling of this issue tell you about his stance towards the stories he tells?
"The Ages of Mankind" (pp. 3-8)
4. How does the narrator describe the Four Ages (95ff)? What reason does he offer for the deterioration from the Golden to the Silver Age? What causes the deterioration into the Bronze and Iron Ages?
5. What seem to be Jove's intentions with regard to the Iron Age human race? Does he plan to destroy them all? Why do Deucalion and Pyrrha alone survive? What redeeming qualities do they have? (319ff)
"The Flood" and "Deucalion and Pyrrha" (pp. 9-14)
6. Deucalion and Pyrrha pray to Thetis (370ff). What does she tell them to do? What, if anything, does Themis' promise have to do with Jove's promise to make a new and better race of beings? (249ff) How does the narrator sum up the principle of this new dispensation?
"Apollo and Daphne" (pp. 14-18)
7. How, from 502ff, does Apollo at first court Daphne? What metaphor does the narrator employ to describe the pursuit that follows?
8. What becomes of Daphne around 546ff? How does the narrator tie the story of Daphne's metamorphosis to his own time? How does her change differ from the one suffered by Lycaon? Does some principle underlie this change -- why does Daphne change in the specific way she does, and not in some other way?
"Io" (pp. 18-23)
9. What metamorphosis does Io, the daughter of the river god Inachus, undergo? (586ff) How does she manage to turn into a human again?
"Phaethon" (pp. 23-24)
10. How is the final tale of Book One (about Phaethon) related to Ovid's task as an epic poet?
"Phaethon, continued" (pp. 25-36)
11. The obvious moral of this tale is "don't aspire beyond your powers or your lot." But how does Ovid case this moral in doubt -- what does his narration suggest about the way the Gods uphold their order?
"Callisto" (pp. 37-40)
12. What links this story to the previous one, aside from the fact that Jove meets Callisto while surveying the damage from Phaethon's disastrous ride?
"The Raven and the Crow" (pp. 40-43)
13. What is the principle behind the transition from "Callisto" to this tale? What does the "Chinese Box" method of narration add to the main story's significance?
14. How does the sad story of these two birds frustrate the theme of natural regeneration set forth at the outset of Book 2?
"Ocyrhoe" and "Mercury and Battus" (pp. 43-45)
15. What common theme links these two stories? What connects them to the whole of Book 2?
"The Envy of Aglauros" (pp. 46-49)
16. Why is it appropriate that Minerva should turn Aglauros into stone? Why not some other punishment?
17. Describe the behavior and the effects of Envy. Why is she so closely associated with poison?
"Jupiter and Europa" (pp. 49-50)
18. How does this story complete the poet's reflection in Book 2 on the relationship between humans and nature?
"Cadmus" (pp. 51-54)
19. What does the manner of Thebes' founding suggest about the city's future?
20. How does this tale relate to Ovid's ironic handling of nature in Book 2?
"Diana and Actaeon" (pp. 55-58)
21. When Actaeon turns into a stag and is pursued by hounds, what human characteristics does he miss most? Why?
22. How does this story handle the theme of female violence? Does such violence seem justified here? How does its significance go beyond the immediate tale? Why do you suppose the narrator comments at the end on others' views of Diana's conduct?
"Semele and the Birth of Bacchus" (pp. 58-60)
23. How does Ovid's Juno compare to Virgil's Juno, and/or Homer's Hera?
24. How does this story relate to the story of Phoebus in Book 2? What relationship between the human and the divine does it explore or assert?
"Tiresias" (pp. 60-61)
25. In what way does this story advance the theme of "compensation for loss" as one significant feature of relations between gods and human beings?
"Narcissus and Echo" (pp. 61-66)
26. How is this tale an exploration of the psychology of love? How does it compare to other tales in which Ovid's narrator addresses this complex issue?
"Pentheus and Bacchus" (pp. 66-73)
27. How does Pentheus interpret Bacchus and his rites? What power does Bacchus represent in this story?
28. Offer your view on why Pentheus' mother, Agave, does not recognize her own son before she tears him to pieces. One possibility -- how might the fact that she cannot recognize him be taken as a comment on Ovid's theme of poetry's power?
29. What attitude does the teller of the tale take towards the violent behavior of the Bacchantes? Is their violence a positive and appropriate thing here?
"The Daughters of Minyas" (pp. 74-75)
30. Why is the girls' storytelling inappropriate? How might this impropriety reflect back upon Ovid?
"Pyramus and Thisbe" (pp. 76-79)
31. Ovid seems to have invented this story rather than to have borrowed it, and he offers it in a "deadpan" style. Again, how does the tale-telling make Ovid subject to the perils of his own fictional storytelling?
32. What is unusual about the metamorphosis here?
"The Sun in Love" (pp. 79-82)
33. What is the connection between Hyperion and the daughters of Minyas? How do they both transgress?
34. How does Ovid's tale show the limitations of metamorphosis as a strategy for escape from peril or compensation for harm done?
"Salmacis and Hermaphroditus" and "The Daughters of Minyas Transformed" (pp. 83-86)
35. Salmacis aggressively pursues and merges with the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The gods grant her wish -- why, then, does the narrator allow Hermaphroditus to retain his male identity? How is Ovid treating the female character in this story?
36. What opposition does the narrator explore between "weaving" and the vines of Bacchus? Why is the punishment -- transformation into bats -- appropriate?
"Athamas and Ino" (pp. 86-91)
37. Describe the back-and-forth process of punishment and compensation in this tale: what do children have to do with this process? Why are they at the center of it?
"The Transformation of Cadmus" (pp. 91-93)
38. What does Cadmus hope to accomplish by his prayer to be turned into a snake? What comfort do he and his wife get from their transformation and what happens afterwards?
"Perseus and Andromeda" (pp. 93-98)
39. In what sense might Perseus be said to redeem the "star-crossed lovers" theme of Book 4?
40. Perseus shows his mettle as a storyteller at the end of Book 4. Consider the beginning of the next book -- how is Ovid underscoring the limitations of even this powerful kind of storytelling?
"The Rape of Proserpine" (109-16)
41. Explain the "nature myth" involved in this tale -- how is the story about the seasons or cycles of nature?
42. How does this story treat the issue of sexuality? Why does Venus, goddess of love, insist on pursuing the course she does, and why does Jove (the Roman Zeus) accept the outrage that has been committed against Proserpine (also called Persephone)?
43. Who or what undergoes metamorphosis in this story? Is metamorphosis invariably a positive thing in "The Rape of Proserpine"? Why or why not?
44. How does Ovid represent the gods in this story? What are their motivations and qualities?
45. How does Ovid treat sexuality in this story? What role does it play?
46. Does this story offer any comment or perspective on "The Rape of Proserpine"? What are your reasons for thinking as you do on this point?
Tereus, Procne, and Philomela (134-42)
47. How does Ovid handle the violent subject matter of his story? To what extent, for example, does he describe Tereus' rape and mutilation of Philomela graphically? What would you say is Ovid's attitude towards the cannibalistic revenge Procne takes on Tereus?
48. We have seen that weaving is often a metaphor for poetry and its power. How might that be the case in this story? Is there any other way to connect the tale with this theme of poetry's power?
49. How does Ovid, in this tale and perhaps others, differ from authors who offer us some conventional "moral"? What do you suppose we are expected to take away from our reading of such Ovidian fables about metamorphosis?
"Daedalus and Icarus" (176-78)
"Orpheus and Euridyce" (225-28)
51. You have read Persephone's story - does that cast any light on (or shadow over) Orpheus' quest to recover Euridyce from the Underworld? Why or why not?
52. What reasons does Orpheus give Persephone for wanting to enter Hades? What constraint do the Underworld gods impose on Orpheus in his quest, and why can't he return for a second time after his initial failure?
53. What powers does Orpheus have as a poet? Explain.
54. What do you believe to be the significance of the course of love that Orpheus pursues after he is denied a second chance to rescue his Euridyce?
"The Death of Orpheus" (249-52)
57. Orpheus is torn to shreds by Bacchantes, female followers of Bacchus' wild mystery cult. What power or order might the Bacchantes represent, in a wider social and political context? That is, how, with reference to the previous Orpheus tale, has Orpheus offended more than these women's vanity?
58. What role do Apollo and Bacchus play in this tale? Why do they take Orpheus' side? Why is it appropriate that the Bacchantes are turned into trees?
"The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar" and "Epilogue" (374-79)
Edition: Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. A. D. Mellville. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0192834720.