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Of Ovid and Boethius

Gur, a guy in the PhD program at the Centre for Medieval Studies, gave a good paper this week, a rehearsal in preparation for this weekend's Vagantes (which you can attend if you happen to be in Ithaca this weekend). The paper was on Petrarch and his philosophical attitudes towards the concept of auto-biography, how you can never truly know yourself, and how Petrarch invoked Ovidian tales of love and violence in order to explain his internal confusion. Afterwards, we discussed what the tale of Narcissus really means: does Narcissus recognize himself or not?

Ovid's Metamorphoses are something I have known since I was a child. Indeed, perhaps it would be more correct to say I've only known them as a child. They were read to me as bedtime stories and I haven't read them since. If reading requires my eyes to touch all the words on the page and not just listen to them, then you could say I've never actually read the Metamorphoses. I've read commentary on them (the Ovide moralisée, Christine de Pisan etc.), but not the stories themselves. I might have grown up on Ovid, but there are plenty of other core texts which I've never read.

I ran into Gur at a coffee shop about a month ago, and, knowing he knew the philosophical texts of the middle ages better than I, asked him where I should look to read up on what different influential authors thought back then about the value of time, about not wasting time. Seneca, Augustine, Boethius, Petrarch... he could tell me names, titles, even chapters to look at in some cases. He was very helpful, providing the knowledgable shortcut which will save me flailing around in all the wrong sources. I checked Bothius' Confessions out from the library, but yesterday my own copy arrived by mail. It's good reading, and I can see immediately how it ties in to other things I've read in so many ways. I'm filling in gaps, texts I hadn't read yet which are rightly considered central to my discipline. I know that I'll be doing that the rest of my life, but it's satisfying to finally read a text which ties in so well, in so many ways, is well-written, and that I can think so of it even over a thousand years after it was initially composed. Thank you, Gur.