In the Step(pe)s of Genius

Duncan F. Kennedy

in Two Thousand Years of Solitude

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603848
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731587 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

In the Step(pe)s of Genius

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The youthful Pushkin’s poem ‘To Ovid’ (1821) takes up the Ovidian tradition of self-conscious reflection on exile. This chapter considers the poem’s literary and historical context and rhetorical strategies. Tomis, the place of Ovid’s exile, was ceded by the Ottoman Empire to Russia in 1812, shortly before Pushkin was exiled there; Pushkin approached this unknown and exotic area with the models of Byron and Ovid. Pushkin’s poem indicates how his expectations of exile were moulded by Ovid’s poetry, though the reality he experienced was very different. In developing the Romantic tropes of poetic presence and personal alienation, his poem pays tribute to the enduring power of Ovid’s poetic voice to beguile its readers, whilst enabling Pushkin to distance himself from what he sees as the historical Ovid’s negative response to the experience of exile—a judgement he tempers a few years later in one of his last works written in exile, ‘The Gypsies’.

Keywords: Pushkin; Russia; Byron; exile; ‘To Ovid’; ‘The Gypsies’; poetic presence; Romantic

Chapter.  7267 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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