The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris

The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris

The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris

The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris

Synopsis

The Art of Love celebrates the bi-millennium of Ovid's cycle of sophisticated and subversive didactic poems on love, traditionally assumed to have been brought to completion around AD 2. Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) and Remedia Amoris (Cures for Love), which purport to teach young Roman men and women how to be good lovers, were partly responsible for the poet's exile from Rome under the emperor Augustus. None the less they exerted great influence over ancient and later love poetry. Thisis the first collection in English devoted to the poems, and brings together many of the leading figures in the field of Latin literature and Ovidian studies from the British Isles, Germany, Italy, and the United States. It offers a range of perspectives on the poetics, politics, and erotics of the poems, beginning with a critical survey of recent research, and concluding with papers on the ancient, medieval, and modern reception of the poems.

Excerpt

Sets of rules and precepts on love and relationships retain the capacity to offend. An American bestseller of the 1990s by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider—The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right—dedicated to marrying off its female readers to suitable prospects, might appear to have little obvious connection with the poem that Augustus found guilty of teaching ‘foul adultery’ (Tr. 2. 212). But, in Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen, Jenny Davidson devotes a coda (‘Politeness and its Costs’) to taking issue with The Rules on grounds that may seem familiar to readers of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria:

The advice for women who want husbands that is given in the notorious
bestseller The Rules is relentlessly pragmatic…. the book puts forward a
practical thesis about the payoffs of delayed gratification and self-restraint in
the form of ‘simple working sets of behaviors and reactions’: concealing
one’s feelings and withholding sex with the goal of receiving a marriage
proposal…. the pragmatism of Fein and Schneider’s language, and its relent
less orientation towards a single goal, suggests a patently self-interested
brand of self-control whose extension into other social arenas would be
quite sinister.

We can perhaps grasp or relive something of the shock of the Ars Amatoria by taking on board the open hostility expressed here towards the very notion of pragmatic advice on ‘love’, learned behaviours, and concealment of feelings, and the evident anxiety expressed about the leakage of the principles of The Rules into cognate areas. But self-interest in matters of love is not all that worries Davidson. She goes on to argue that ‘The authors of The Rules articulate many of our culture’s most disturbing assumptions about women … that women are more manipulative and cynical than men, that they are deeply hypocritical, indeed that all women’s relationships with men are colored by levels of self-interest and

J. Davidson, Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen (Cambridge, 2004), 176–7.

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