Afterlives of a Poetic corpus
Punning on the dual meaning of the Latin word corpus as both ‘body’ and ‘body of work’, Ovid attempted to define the future of his oeuvre with reference to the future entombment of his body, fusing his textual and biological bodies in his works. No one ever found out where Ovid was truly buried, which means that the poet’s body did, in fact, disappear into the realm of textuality. But rather than accepting the material disappearance of the poet’s bones, an alternative reception history has emerged, poised between literary reception and material culture. Ovid’s tomb takes centre stage in this story, as later generations of readers—from the author of the medieval De vetula to early modern tomb-hunters in Romania and Rome—continued to discover and rediscover the poet’s long-lost grave by engaging in creative dialogue with the poet’s work.
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