A Web of Fantasies
Gaze, Image, and Gender in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Patricia B. Salzman-Mitchell
Literary Criticism/Ancient & Classical
272 pp. 6x9
$109.95 cloth 978-0-8142-0999-8
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“The author has a complete command of the theoretical literature. This book is an important contribution to Ovidian studies as well as to studies in feminism and gender.” —John Makowski, Classical Studies, Loyola University, Chicago
“Salzman-Mitchell is entirely familiar with her sources both ancient and modern. This book will be an important contribution to modern Ovidian scholarship, and will suggest similar interpretations of poets other than Ovid.” —Allan Kershaw, Classics and Mediterranean Studies, The University of Illinois–Chicago
Drawing on recent scholarship in art, film, literary theory, and gender studies, A Web of Fantasies examines the complexities, symbolism and interactions between gaze and image in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and forms a gender-sensitive perspective. It is a feminist study of Ovid’s epic, which includes many stories about change, in which discussions of viewers, viewing, and imagery strive to illuminate Ovid’s constructions of male and female. Patricia Salzman-Mitchell discusses the text from the perspective of three types of gazes: of characters looking, of the poet who narrates visually charged stories, and of the reader who “sees” the woven images in the text. Arguing against certain theorists who deny the possibility of any feminine vision in a male-authored poem, the author maintains that the female point of view can be released through the traditional feminine occupation of weaving, featuring the woven images of Arachne (involved in a weaving contest in which she tried to best the goddess Athena, who turned her into a spider) and Philomela (who had her tongue cut out, so had to weave a tapestry depicting her rape and mutilation).
The book observes that while feminist models of the gaze can create productive readings of the poem, these models are too limited and reductive for such a protean and complex text as Metamorphoses. This work brings forth the pervasive importance of the act of looking in the poem which will affect future readings of Ovid’s epic.
Patricia B. Salzman-Mitchell is assistant professor of classics, department of classics and general humanities at Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey.