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Classics & Ancient History   >   Ovid: Heroides

Intertextuality and Authority

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Ovid: Heroides

In this course, Professor Sharon Marshall (University of Exeter) explores Ovid’s Heroides. In the first module, we think about the relationship between Ovid’s version of the myths of Penelope, Briseis and Dido, and the ‘original’ versions found in Homer and Virgil. After that, in the second module, we think about the self-presentation of Penelope, Briseis and Dido as authors, with a particular focus on the relationship between gender and power. In the third module, we consider the Heroides as a text that spans the literary genres of epic, elegy and the letter, before turning in the fourth module to think about the politics of the Heroides, focusing in particular on it relation to Augustus’ moral legislation. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the relationship between space and gender in the Heroides, and the extent to which the heroines live up to the ideal of the Roman matrona.

Intertextuality and Authority

In this lecture, we think about the relationship between the version of the myths contained in Heroides 1, 3 and 7, and the ‘original’ versions in the Odyssey, Iliad and Aeneid, focusing in particular on the moments where Ovid’s version differs from the original. As we move through the module, we consider: (i) Duncan Kennedy’s argument that we are encouraged to read Heroides 1 as a subjective (fallible) account, versus the objective, authoritative account provided in Homer’s Odyssey; (ii) Alessandro Barchiesi’s argument that our interpretation of Ovid’s version of the myth is ‘controlled’ by our knowledge of Homer’s Odyssey, which demonstrates the authoritativeness of epic versus love elegy; (iii) Joseph Farrell’s argument that, in the world of love elegy, male letter-writers tend to be deceptive, while female letter-writers tend to be sincere, and that Penelope’s account in Heroides 1 should be seen as more authoritative than the account provided by Homer’s Odyssey; (iv) Ovid’s praise for Ulysses in another poem for being able to tell same story differently each time (Ars Am. 2.128), and Ovid’s self-presentation as a similarly talented story-teller.

Suggested reading:
– A. Barchiesi, Speaking Volumes: Narrative and Intertext in Ovid and other Latin poets (2001)
– J. Farrell, ‘Reading and Writing the Heroides’, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 98 (1998), pp. 307-38
– L. Fulkerson, ‘The Heroides: Female Elegy?’ in P. Knox, ed. A Companion to Ovid (2013), pp. 78-89
– D. Kennedy, ‘The Epistolary Mode and the First of Ovid’s Heroides’, The Classical Quarterly 34.2 (1984), pp. 413-422

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Marshall, S. (2022, August 08). Ovid: Heroides - Intertextuality and Authority [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Marshall, S. "Ovid: Heroides – Intertextuality and Authority." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Aug 2022,

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Dr Sharon Marshall

Dr Sharon Marshall

Exeter University