A series of letters purportedly written by Penelope, Dido, Medea, and other heroines to their lovers, the Heroides represents Ovid's initial attempt to revitalize myth as a subject for literature. In this book, Howard Jacobson examines the first fifteen elegaic letters of the Heroides.
In his critical evaluation, Professor Jacobson takes into consideration the twofold nature of the work: its existence as a single entity with uniform poetic structure and coherent goals, and its existence as a collection of fifteen individual poems. Thus, fifteen chapters are devoted to a thorough analysis and interpretation of the particular poems, while six additional chapters are concerned with problems that pertain to the work as a whole, such as the nature of the genre, the role of rhetoric, theme, and variation, and the originality of Ovid.
Special attention is given to the application of modern psychological criticism to the delineations of the pathological psyche in the letters. In an additional chapter on the chronology of Ovid's early amatory poetry, the author challenges and revises the traditional dating of the Heroides.
Originally published in 1974.
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