Motherhood and the Ovidian Epic Subject
This chapter is a study of the numerous mother figures and uses of maternal imagery in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It shows how, in creations like Ceres, Venus, Niobe, Althaea, Alcmene, and Hecuba, Ovid pushes mothers, both destructive and generative, centre stage as subjects and protagonists of their own narratives. Ovid recuperates the mother from her position as the repressed subtext of the Aeneid’s Roman masculine self and makes her traumas, dilemmas, and desires the ‘matter’ of much of his epic. On the one hand, the dramatic physical transformations of motherhood, which blur the distinctions between body and mind, self and other, become paradigms for the poem’s multiple types of metamorphoses. On the other, mothers’ intense psychic struggles and emotional monologues emerge as key elements in his poem’s unprecedented exploration of the contradictory and multiple nature of subjectivity itself.
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