The Lives of Ovid in Seventeenth-Century French Culture
Seventeenth-century France saw one of the most significant 'culture wars' Europe has ever known. Culminating in the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, this was a confrontational, transitional time for the reception of the classics. Helena Taylor explores responses to the life of the ancient Roman poet, Ovid, within this charged atmosphere. To date, criticism has focused on the reception of Ovid's enormously influential work in this period, but little attention has
been paid to Ovid's lives and their uses. Through close analysis of a diverse corpus, which includes prefatory Lives, novels, plays, biographical dictionaries, poetry, and memoirs, this study investigates how the figure of Ovid was used to debate literary taste and modernity and to reflect on
translation practice. It shows how the narrative of Ovid's life was deployed to explore the politics and poetics of exile writing; and to question the relationship between fiction and history. In so doing, this book identifies two paradoxes: although an ancient poet, Ovid became key to the formulation of aspects of self-consciously 'modern' cultural movements; and while Ovid's work might have adorned the royal palaces of Versailles, the poetry he wrote after being exiled by the Emperor Augustus
made him a figure through which to question the relationship between authority and narrative. The Lives of Ovid in Seventeenth-Century French Culture not only nuances understanding of both Ovid and life-writing in this period, but also offers a fresh perspective on classical reception: its
paradoxes, uses, and quarrels.