Italian Readers of Ovid from the Origins to Petrarch

Responding to a Versatile Muse


The Latin poet Ovid continues to fascinate readers today. In Italian Readers of Ovid from the Origins to Petrarch, Julie Van Peteghem examines what drew medieval Italian writers to the Latin poet’s works, characters, and themes. While accounts of Ovid’s influence in Italy often start with Dante’s Divine Comedy, this book shows that mentions of Ovid are found in some of the earliest poems written in Italian, and remain a constant feature of Italian poetry over time. By situating the poetry of the Sicilians, Dante, Cino da Pistoia, and Petrarch within the rich and diverse history of reading, translating, and adapting Ovid’s works, Van Peteghem offers a novel account of the reception of Ovid in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy.

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Julie Van Peteghem, Ph.D. (2013), Columbia University, is Assistant Professor of Italian at Hunter College, CUNY. She studies and teaches medieval Italian literature, the reception of the classics, and reading practices in the Middle Ages and in the digital age.
"In Italian Readers of Ovid from the Origins to Petrarch: Responding to a Versatile Muse, Julie Van Peteghem sets out to fill in the literary history of Ovid’s reception in the Italian medieval period by moving beyond a focus strictly on the so-called three crowns, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. In her highly scholarly and thoughtful study, she situates Dante’s and Petrarch’s reception of Ovid in the literary context of other poets writing in Italian languages before and during Dante’s lifetime. At the same time, focusing on Ovid in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Italy, she expands narrow conceptions of reception to include commentaries, translations, anthologies, citations, and the contexts in which Ovid might be encountered (schools, universities, monasteries, and courts). As Van Peteghem writes in stating one of the central arguments of the book, “The meanings of ‘Ovid’ expand in many directions” (11). [...] This is a superbly researched book that contributes an important new chapter to the discussion of the reception of Ovid in the poetry of the Italian thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In addition to an extensive bibliography, noteworthy is the fact that the publisher allowed bottom-of-the-page footnotes, a tradition invariably abandoned even in medieval studies. In such an extensively researched study, this is a welcome convenience to the reader." Brenda Deen Schildgen, in The Medieval Review, January 2022. See the full review here.
List of Figures and Tables

Part 1: Writers as Readers

Introduction: “Ovid, the philosopher who wrote books about love”

1 Ovidius — Ovidi — Ovide — Ovidio: a History of Reading Ovid in the Due- and Trecento
 1.1 Reading Ovid: the Material and Cultural Contexts
 1.2 The Italian Readers of Ovid Turned Writers
 1.3 Beyond Intertextuality? How to Think about Ovid’s Influence

Part 2: Readers as Writers

2 Examples (Not) to Follow: the First Italian Ovidian Poems and Their Occitan Models
 2.1 Better and More: Ovidian Similes in Vernacular Poetry
 2.2 Ovid’s Book that Does Not Lie (to Troubadours)
 2.3 Reading and Discussing Ovidio
 2.4 Conclusion

3 Something Old, Something New: Dante, Cino da Pistoia, and Ovid
 3.1 “Per Ovidio parla Amore”: First, the Vita nuova
 3.2 Dante’s petrose: Testing Out New Techniques
 3.3 Cino da Pistoia, Dante, and Ovid on Love, Myth, and Exile
 3.4 Conclusion

4 Ovid in Dante’s Commedia
 4.1 In Search of Dante’s (Copy of) Ovid
 4.2 Dante’s Ovidius: Close Readings of the Latin Text
 4.3 Dante’s Ovidio: The Vernacular Roots of Dante’s Reading of Ovid
 4.4 Conclusion

5 Petrarch’s Scattered Ovidian Verses
 5.1 Petrarch’s Ovid Found
 5.2 Just Like Apollo, Just Like Daphne: Similes and Identification
 5.3 Metamorphosis as a Narrative Principle
 5.4 Conclusion
All interested in Latin and medieval Italian literature, classical reception studies, and the history of reading in medieval and early modern Italy.
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