Pushkin’s Ovid

Jostein Børtnes

in Romans and Romantics

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199588541
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741845 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Pushkin’s Ovid

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This chapter shows how Pushkin in his epistle ‘To Ovid’ first projects his memory of the spatial story of Ovid's exile onto his own experience of exile as a mental event. The texts from Tristia and Ex Ponto that he has read and memorized over the years are activated by the sensory input of his own exile, not least by his encounter with places associated with his predecessor. But from perceiving the landscape through Ovid's texts and from his point of view of a southerner banned to the North, in the course of the poem Pushkin re-describes it, projecting onto it his mental images of a wintery Russian December. The Moldavian landscape is transfigured into an image of the South, and from this contrastive juxtaposition the poem's nature theme receives its originality. What was first perceived in analogy to Ovid's portrayal of their common place of exile is now represented in contrast to it. The poem's ‘here’ is opposed to the ‘there’ of Pushkin's northern background. Pushkin's reworking of the North-South axis, whereby the northerner encounters something from the South, is often cited as a feature of the Romantic attraction to the classical known also from German and English Romantic poetry. What makes Pushkin's text so unique, however, is exactly this superimposition of the memories of his own past onto his memory of Ovid's poetry.

Keywords: analogy; epistle; exile; Ex Ponto; memory; Ovid; Pushkin; Tristia

Chapter.  6976 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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