Seduction and Repetition in Ovid's Ars Amatoria 2

Seduction and Repetition in Ovid's Ars Amatoria 2

Seduction and Repetition in Ovid's Ars Amatoria 2

Seduction and Repetition in Ovid's Ars Amatoria 2

Synopsis

The Art of Love, or Ars Amatoria, is a poem about sex and poetry, and poetry as sex. Witty and subversive, it is a poem of seduction about seduction: the seduction of the implied reader being initiated into the art of love, as well as the actual reader being seduced by the poet into the act of reading the poem. This sophisticated but accessible reading of the poem focuses on the relationship between the poet and reader, the lover and the seduced--both here and elsewhere in Latin poetry. The book translates all Latin quotations, and should prove a new, exciting, and provocative contribution to Latin literary criticism.

Excerpt

The reader is and is not the Reader. The act of reading this text necessarily involves both identification with and separation from the aspiring lover to whom it is notionally addressed. So it is that we are able 'voyeuristically' to watch the lover's progress through his apprenticeship, identifying with him, but with a detached amusement. We see him as seducer and also as victim of seduction, and that in two ways. First, there are times when we may suspect that he is as much seduced by the girl and/or love as seducing it/her. Someone, a praeda petita ('a desired prey'), decidit ('fell') into Ovid's casses ('trap') in the first pentameter of our book. Who was it? The girl certainly: but if we are alert to the games which, I shall suggest, Ovid plays with his reader, we may re-read the line with the lover also subliminally signified or at least hinted at by praeda. The lover has fallen into Ovid's trap, in that he is involved in the poem and enthusiastically following its advice. He is a victim of seduction by the poet/teacher. If the lover is signified, then so is the reader, for when we see the lover caught in the trap and held in the text's embrace we must realize that we too are the victims of the text's seduction. At times we too are deceived for the moment, and then are made to laugh at our own gullibility. Moreover, when the reader takes the hint and realizes Ovid's deception of the lover, he gains satisfaction from his vantage-point with Ovid, looking down on the student/lover. By letting us in to his superior dwelling-place, Ovid has done to us what he has done to the girl and the lover. We have bitten and are caught--we are reading the book. The pleasure of the lover, the pleasure of reading, the erotics of the text, its figuration as seduc-

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