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Exploring Reconfiguration with Ovidian Figures

In the Fall of 2020, a seminar of fourteen students and two professors, Jessica McCoy (Art, Pitzer) and Colleen Rosenfeld (English, Pomona), logged onto Zoom every Monday and Wednesday morning to discuss Ovid’s Metamorphoses and a variety of adaptations, translations, imitations, and appropriations across the visual and verbal arts.  Pairing introductory lessons in drawing with the method of literary analysis known as close reading, we tried to understand what it means for one body to cease being itself by transforming into something else.  Tracing Ovid’s narrative scenes, including the myths of Apollo and Daphne, Echo and Narcissus, Actaeon, Philomela, and Pygmalion (to name a few) across centuries of retelling, refashioning, and reimagining, we asked: How does one body, one constellation of matter, assume another shape?  What is the relation of the human body to the plants and animals and minerals that it can become?


Two remarkable students, Sophia Haber and Andie Sheridan, drawing on what they were learning in both Ovidian Figures and Professor Prageeta Sharma’s seminar Visual Poetics, compiled a chapbook consisting of a variety of poems and original artwork—from ekphrastic poems prompted by Peter Paul Rubens’ The Head of Medusa to meditations on Ovid’s Famine and the female body.  Drawing on tellings and retellings that focus on sexual violence in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from Phillis Wheatley’s “Niobe in Distress for her Children Slain by Apollo” (1773) to Paisley Rekdal’s Nightingale (2019), Haber and Sheridan, in their own words, “offer new retellings and interpretations that vivify and expand on Ovid’s stories,  Not because we love them—but because we cannot look away.”  We provide a link to a pdf of that chapbook in this newsletter.  Please join us in congratulating these two poets.


The syllabus for Ovidian Figures is available upon request.  We also have 4 extra copies of the course reader that we are happy to mail to any interested readers.  Contact: colleen.rosenfeld@pomona.edu


Click here to view “Saving Iphis”