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Metamorphoses [in translation]

by Ovid

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,257101459 (4.11)2 / 364
"The first female translator of the epic into English in over sixty years, Stephanie McCarter addresses accuracy in translation and its representation of women, gendered dynamics of power, and sexual violence in Ovid's classic. Ovid's Metamorphoses is an epic poem, but one that upturns almost every convention. There is no main hero, no central conflict, and no sustained objective. What it is about (power, defiance, art, love, abuse, grief, rape, war, beauty, and so on) is as changeable as the beings that inhabit its pages. The sustained thread is power and how it transforms us, both those of us who have it and those of us who do not. For those who are brutalized and traumatized, transformation is often the outward manifestation of their trauma. A beautiful virgin is caught in the gaze of someone more powerful who rapes or tries to rape them, and they ultimately are turned into a tree or a lake or a stone or a bird. The victim's objectification is clear: They are first a visual object, then a sexual object, and finally simply an object. Around 50 of the epic's tales involve rape or attempted rape of women. Past translations have obscured or mitigated Ovid's language so that rape appears to be consensual sex. Through her translation, McCarter considers the responsibility of handling sexual and social dynamics. Then why continue to read Ovid? McCarter proposes Ovid should be read because he gives us stories through which we can better explore ourselves and our world, and he illuminates problems that humans have been grappling with for millennia. Careful translation of rape and the body allows readers to see Ovid's nuances clearly and to better appreciate how ideas about sexuality, beauty, and gender are constructed over time. This is especially important since so many of our own ideas about these phenomena are themselves undergoing rapid metamorphosis, and Ovid can help us see and understand this progression. The Metamorphoses holds up a kaleidoscopic lens to the modern world, one that offers us the opportunity to reflect on contemporary discussions about gender, sexuality, race, violence, art, and identity"--… (more)
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» See also 364 mentions

English (81)  Italian (6)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Rereading after decades.
Phew, mostly rape, murder, and incest. In ten-beat, unrhymed lines.
Then at the end he throws in Mr. Vegetarian, Pythagoras, and the deification of Julius Caesar. The metamorphoses in these are a bit of a stretch. Pythagoras saying that all things change into other things, and a man becoming a god to justify the deification of his son. Augustus is such a swell guy, his dad must be a god! Make it so, Mr. Crusher.
The remarkable things, one of which I noticed as a 14 year old, was the trans story. And it turns out there are two. Both trans-men, of course. And the dual-gender of Hermaphroditus. Neither of these very trans- or bi-friendly, but notable all the same.
The Story of Salmacis (dual gender, but the fountain waters thenceforth to weaken males)
The Story of Iphis and Ianthe (daughter passed off as a son set to marry another woman transformed on their wedding day)
The Story of Caeneus (woman tired of rape asking her rapist to no longer be a woman so to never suffer that again - rapist, as usual, was a god who could arrange this - and the trans-man then becomes a great warrior)
People turning into plants, animals, and stone eventually gets tiresome. But it's in the title.
  marfita | Feb 26, 2024 |
Edición y traducción de Vicente López Soto
  jose.calero.gt | Jan 12, 2024 |
Oh my. Unbearable in Russian. Mostly due to its meter and language, probably imitating the original. With all due respect I thought what's the worth of trudging on? I'm not a PhD student in Ancient Literature after all and the plot is not gripping, unlike many other primary sources.
  Den85 | Jan 3, 2024 |
https://fromtheheartofeurope.eu/metamorphoses-by-publius-ovidius-naso-translated....

Way way back 40 years ago, I studied Latin for what were then called O-levels, and one of the set texts was a Belfast-teenager-friendly translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I loved it. If you don’t know, it’s a narrative poem in fifteen books re-telling classical legends, concentrating in particular on those where there is a change of shape – usually humans turned into animals, vegetables or minerals, though with other variations too. It’s breezy, vivid and sometimes funny, and it’s been a store of easily accessible ancient lore for centuries.

I’d always meant to get back to it properly, and it finally popped up on my list of books that I owned but had not yet blogged here. However, my 40-year-old copy is safely in Northern Ireland, so I acquired both the latest Penguin translation, by Stephanie McCarter, and Ted Hughes’ selection of twenty-four choice chapters, and read them – I took the McCarter translation in sequence, and then jumped across to read the relevant sections if Hughes had translated them, though he put them in a different order.

I do find Ovid fascinating. In some ways he speaks to the present day reader very directly – a lot of the emotions in the Ars Amatoria could be expressed by lovers two thousand years later. But here he’s taking material that was already very well known, the Greek and Roman classical legendarium, and repackaging it for a sophisticated audience in the greatest city in the world. The book ends (McCarter’s translation):

Where Roman power spreads through conquered lands,
I will be read on people’s lips. My fame
will last across the centuries. If poets’
prophecies can hold any truth, I’ll live.

And he did. I have been particularly struck by Ovid’s popularity among the patrons of my favourite 17th-century stuccador, Jan Christiaan Hansche. A number of his most interesting ceilings feature stories from Ovid, some of them well known, some less so. Sixteen centuries after Ovid laid down his pen, his work was still part of the standard canon of literature known to all educated Western Europeans.

So. The two translations are different and serve different purposes. McCarter’s mandate was to translate the whole of the Metamorphoses into iambic pentameter in English. She is necessarily constrained to giving us an interpretation of Ovid’s text, with all of its limitations, and confining her own original thoughts to footnotes and other supporting material.

In a very interesting introduction, she is clear about the many scenes of rape in the story. But she also makes it clear that Ovid has a lot more active female characters than are in his sources, and they get more to do. She gives some telling examples of previous translators projecting later concepts of femininity onto Ovid’s fairly unambiguous original words.

Given the contemporary debate, it’s also interesting that Ovid has several examples of gender fluidity – not really presented as a standard part of everyday life, but nonetheless as a phenomenon that happens. For Ovid, we must simply accept that someone’s current gender may not be the one that they were born with.

Ted Hughes, on the other hand, was translating favourite bits of Ovid because he had reached the stage of his career where he could do what he wanted. He could leave out all the bits he found boring (I haven’t counted, but I think he translates about only 40% of Ovid’s text), and he could add his own flourishes at will. Inevitably this makes for a more satisfactory reading experience, though it is incomplete.

Both translations bring to life Ovid’s vivid imagery, which really throws you into the narrative. For a compare and contrast passage, here is the beginning of their treatment of the story of Phaethon, the son of the Sun who crashed to disaster trying to drive his father’s chariot (a favourite topic for Hansche). I think that the differences speak for themselves:

McCarter:
The Sun’s child Phaethon equaled him in age
and mind. But Epaphus could not endure
his boasts, his smugness, and his arrogance
that Phoebus was his father and declared,
“You crazily trust all your mother says!
Your head is swollen by a phony father!”
Phaethon blushed as shame repressed his wrath.
He took these taunts to Clymene, his mother,
and told her, “Mother, to upset you more,
although I am free-spoken and quick-tempered,
I could not speak, ashamed these insults could
be uttered and that I could not refute them.
If I am truly born of holy stock,
give me a sign and claim me for the heavens!”
Wrapping his arms around his mother’s neck,
he begged—by his life, Merops’ life, his sisters’
weddings—that she give proof of his true father.

Hughes:
When Phaethon bragged about his father, Phoebus
The sun-god,
His friends mocked him.
‘Your mother must be crazy
Or you’re crazy to believe her.
How could the sun be anybody’s father?’
In a rage of humiliation
Phaethon came to his mother, Clymene.
‘They’re all laughing at me,
And I can’t answer. What can I say? It’s horrible.
I have to stand like a dumb fool and be laughed at.
‘If it’s true, Mother,’ he cried, ‘if the sun,
The high god Phoebus, if he is my father,
Give me proof.
Give me evidence that I belong to heaven.’
Then he embraced her. ‘I beg you,
‘On my life, on your husband Merops’ life,
And on the marriage hopes of my sisters,
Only give me proof that the sun is my father.’

I think I’d recommend that a reader unfamiliar with Ovid start with Hughes and then go on to McCarter to get the full story. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 1, 2023 |
This translation is, on occasion, a bit ridiculous. ( )
  J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (747 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ovidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anguillara, Giovanni Andrea dell'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bernini, FerruccioEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bosselaar, Didericus ErnestusEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dryden, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ehwald, RudolfEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feeney, DenisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garth, Sir SamuelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gay, ZhenyaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golding, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory, HoraceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hane-Scheltema, M. d'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haupt, MorizEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Humphries, RolfeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Innes, M. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kline, A. S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Korn, OttoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mandelbaum, AllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Müller, Hermann JohannesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCarter, StephanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melville, A. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, Frank JustusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parramon i Blasco, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pattist, M.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepermans, G. M. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepermans, G. M. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Proosdij, B.A. vanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raeburn, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarrant, R. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tissol, GarthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vondel, Joost van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
This translation of Ovid's seamless song
is inscribed to my brother in law and in love,
Leonard Feldman, and my sister, Rayma.
First words
Now I shall tell you of things that change, new being / Out of old: since you, O Gods, created / Mutable arts and gifts, give me the voice / To tell the shifting story of the world / From its beginning to the present hour.
Širdį man traukia giedot, kaip naujus pavidalus gavo Žemiški kūnai.
My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind. You heavenly powers, since you were responsible for those changes, as for all else, look favourably on my attempts, and spin an unbroken thread of verse, from the earliest beginnings of the world, down to my own times. [Mary M. Innes translation, Penguin Books, 1955]
My soul would sing of metamorphoses.
(Tr. Allan Mandelbaum)
My mind would tell of forms changed into new bodies;  gods, into my undertakings (for you changed even those) breathe life and from the first origin of the world to my own times draw forth a perpetual song!
(Tr. Z Philip Ambrose)
Quotations
Žemės kraštuos, kur tik sieks raminanti Romos galybė, žmonės mane skaitys, ir lūpose būsiu aš gyvas, jeigu teisybės yra kiek dainių spėjimuos, per amžius.
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3150003563 Reclam UB
3150206375 Reclam Taschenbuch

Metamorphoses in translation.
Under the 'dead language" convention, there are separate works for Latin and bilingual editions.

This is the complete edition of Metamorphoses. Please do not combine with partial editions (individual volumes of multi-volume editions).
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"The first female translator of the epic into English in over sixty years, Stephanie McCarter addresses accuracy in translation and its representation of women, gendered dynamics of power, and sexual violence in Ovid's classic. Ovid's Metamorphoses is an epic poem, but one that upturns almost every convention. There is no main hero, no central conflict, and no sustained objective. What it is about (power, defiance, art, love, abuse, grief, rape, war, beauty, and so on) is as changeable as the beings that inhabit its pages. The sustained thread is power and how it transforms us, both those of us who have it and those of us who do not. For those who are brutalized and traumatized, transformation is often the outward manifestation of their trauma. A beautiful virgin is caught in the gaze of someone more powerful who rapes or tries to rape them, and they ultimately are turned into a tree or a lake or a stone or a bird. The victim's objectification is clear: They are first a visual object, then a sexual object, and finally simply an object. Around 50 of the epic's tales involve rape or attempted rape of women. Past translations have obscured or mitigated Ovid's language so that rape appears to be consensual sex. Through her translation, McCarter considers the responsibility of handling sexual and social dynamics. Then why continue to read Ovid? McCarter proposes Ovid should be read because he gives us stories through which we can better explore ourselves and our world, and he illuminates problems that humans have been grappling with for millennia. Careful translation of rape and the body allows readers to see Ovid's nuances clearly and to better appreciate how ideas about sexuality, beauty, and gender are constructed over time. This is especially important since so many of our own ideas about these phenomena are themselves undergoing rapid metamorphosis, and Ovid can help us see and understand this progression. The Metamorphoses holds up a kaleidoscopic lens to the modern world, one that offers us the opportunity to reflect on contemporary discussions about gender, sexuality, race, violence, art, and identity"--

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