Theses Doctoral

Tempus Edax: Time in Ovid’s Tomitan Poems

Poole, Ursula

This dissertation treats the subject of temporality in Ovid’s exile poetry. I argue that the post-exile texts feature a systematic distortion of time that cannot be conveyed by conventional chronometry. I read this phenomenon as a testament to the condition of the displaced person: the trauma of exile fosters a dissonance between interior (subjective) and exterior (objective) temporality, whereby time becomes stagnant, retrospective, or compulsively circular. The object of this thesis is to chart the evolution of this relationship between dual temporal schemata—and the schism in representations of time that occurs between Ovid’s pre- and post-exilic works. The distinct temporal aesthetic that emerges is a constitutive element of a textual portrait of exilic consciousness.

This unique temporality, moreover, is consistently defined against the temporal prescriptions of the Augustan regime. The ordering of the Augustan subject’s existence through temporal regulations—such as the Caesarian calendar and the myth-enshrined teleology of the Julian imperial line—codified imperial ideology. Although Ovid was, in one sense, a prime participant in this program as author of the Metamorphoses and Fasti, much of Ovid’s elegy ran afoul of Augustan moral codes due to its erotic content and celebration of an individualistic ethos, the emblems of which—such as inborn poetic ingenium and the private and subjective experience of the individual—feature so prominently in his poetry. In the context of Augustan-age incursions of public mores into private life, Ovid put himself at odds with the Augustan value system in his art and actions, which likely occasioned (or was a catalyst for) his exile. He thus had a vested interest in (i) resisting the dominant teleology of the Augustan regime and the self-legitimating semiotic system of which it was a part and (ii) mounting opprobrium against the regime that ousted him. The poet’s alternative vistas of temporality militate against the Augustan program by (a) reclaiming time as a subjective experience that cannot be delimited by the parameters of an official time scheme, and (b) evacuating Augustan time of its meaning within the fictional world of the poetry, thereby exposing it as a socially-constructed, rather than an absolute, reality.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Williams, Gareth David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2021