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Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

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Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Scribo » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:59 pm

I've placed this here since I foresee (and approve!) the discussion veering into the other dirty bits of Greco-Roman literature or the censorship and stifling of the best parts during the Victorian ages - Juvenal and Catullus were heavily cut down and mutilated for school children, Loeb series would neglect Aristophane's more dirty jokes etc.

Basically an excuse for a paper (I doubt people outside the UK will be acquainted with the Daily Mail) has protested the inclusion of Ovid's Amores III.14 in this years AS level exams (ca 16 age). You can read about it here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2337325/Teenage-AS-level-pupils-asked-comment-sexual-intercourse-scenes-Latin-exam.html. I do so enjoy the random remark from a Physics professor who is clearly out of touch with what goes in pre-uni level papers.

The Guardian has managed to give the thing a bit of context by mentioning other popular texts in English literature which may be seen here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/07/sexy-a-level-set-texts?CMP=twt_gu. Incidentally I concur, some of the stuff I read in English Lit was almost hyperbolically worse: Carol Anne Duffy's awful excuse for poetry was allowed (because she's a hardline Feminist one presumes), the sex scenes in Faulk's Birdsong almost put me off the idea. Shakespeare! Hardly clean! Especially when one adopts the OP, the innuendo jumps off the page at you....

Still. Ovid is in the news. 8)
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby daivid » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:52 pm

Thanks for the link - I completely missed that.
However, I think you'll find it hard to find anyone here to disagree that the Mail is being rather silly. Indeed their heart doesn't really seem to be in their 'outrage' . I mean - not being able to find anyone more relevant than a physics teacher!? Looks to me the usual newspaper trick of titillating their readers with a bit of mild sex while feigning disapproval.

Scribo wrote:
Still. Ovid is in the news. 8)


At least the Mail is doing something useful.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Scribo » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:30 pm

daivid wrote: Looks to me the usual newspaper trick of titillating their readers with a bit of mild sex while feigning disapproval.



That is exactly it! I've been wondering how to phrase it elegantly and wittily. Its exactly what they do, rather sad. I must admit I smiled to see it was Ovid who caused the...I shan't use outrage, but you get the idea - given his actual problem with a carmen atque error. It seems somewhat appropriate. :lol:
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Markos » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:10 pm

Shakespeare! Hardly clean! Especially when one adopts the OP, the innuendo jumps off the page at you....


Hamlet to Ophelia comes to mind: "Do you think I meant country matters?" (III,ii, 111)

The note in the Pelican Shakespeare mentions "a play upon a sexual term."

When it is combined with literary genius, I have no problem introducing bawdiness to school kids. (They will probably find it on their own, regardless. :D ) Determining the (sexual) ethics of Homer, who is either the greatest writer of all time or the second greatest after Shakespeare, is difficult, because it is hard to separate the inner voice of the poet from the deplorable actions of his characters. I do find a certain moral rectitude in Homer lacking in the later Greeks, but maybe that is a bit of my own Victorian-like bias--I tend to be a little repressed myself. The Symposium I make an exception for, because Plato is probably the third greatest writer of all time (and unquestionably the greatest thinker ever.)

If I were a designer of school curricula, BTW, I would insist that the classics only be introduced in Greek and Latin. Most ancient authors are not worth reading in translation, in my humble opinion, including Ovid and Aristophanes and (maybe) Lucian.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, Scribo. Have you got your Gaza yet? Got milk? Got γάλα? Got Γάζα? ἔλαβες Γάζαν?
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:31 pm

Markos wrote:I do find a certain moral rectitude in Homer lacking in the later Greeks, but maybe that is a bit of my own Victorian-like bias--I tend to be a little repressed myself.

Moral rectitude in Homer, hey come on! Homer doesn't use any of those naughty words about private parts but that's about all. I mean seriously. What's Odysseus doing while his wife is patiently waiting at home? Athena prefers not to tell his son he's been sharing his bed the last 8 years with Calypso, and makes up excuses for him:
ἀλλ' ἔτι που ζωὸς κατερύκεται εὐρέι πόντῳ
νήσῳ ἐν ἀμφιρύτῃ, χαλεποὶ δέ μιν ἄνδρες ἔχουσιν
ἄγριοι, οἵ που κεῖνον ἐρυκανόωσ' ἀέκοντα.
(Od 1.197-199)
How about moral rectitude in the song of Ares and Aphrodite? Especially the moral of the story according to Hermes - "I'd be ready for anything to get in bed with Aphrodite":
‘αἲ γὰρ τοῦτο γένοιτο, ἄναξ ἑκατηβόλ᾽ Ἄπολλον:
δεσμοὶ μὲν τρὶς τόσσοι ἀπείρονες ἀμφὶς ἔχοιεν,
ὑμεῖς δ᾽ εἰσορόῳτε θεοὶ πᾶσαί τε θέαιναι,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν εὕδοιμι παρὰ χρυσέῃ Ἀφροδίτῃ.
(Od 8.339-342)
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby daivid » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:48 am

Markos wrote:When it is combined with literary genius, I have no problem introducing bawdiness to school kids. (They will probably find it on their own, regardless. :D ) Determining the (sexual) ethics of Homer, who is either the greatest writer of all time or the second greatest after Shakespeare, is difficult, because it is hard to separate the inner voice of the poet from the deplorable actions of his characters. I do find a certain moral rectitude in Homer lacking in the later Greeks, but maybe that is a bit of my own Victorian-like bias--I tend to be a little repressed myself.

At lot of the time when characters in Greek literature do bad things, it is clear that the author intends the audience to deplore those actions. But there are also times where the author clearly approves the actions.
I have just read Plautus's Mercator mainly because I wanted to get some inkling of the kind of plays Philemon wrote.
We are clearly intended to deplore the actions of Demipho, the father who attempts to acquire Pasicompsa for himself but the reason is entirely because he is old. Eutychus, the friend of Charinus, in the final summing up waxes lyrical in insisting on the right of young men like Charinus to do exactly what Demipho has been condemned for. It is true that Pasicompsa declares her love for Charinus. However this is irrelevant to Eutychus who neither condemns Demipho for intending to violate the wishes of Pasicompsa nor defends the love of Charinus on the grounds that it is returned by Pasicompsa. I couldn't find any sign that Charinus has any concern for the fate of Pasicompsa - it is the pain of his loss that he bewails and he does not for a moment spare a thought for what Paricompsa may suffer at the hands of some unknown man.

Only Lysimachus shows any appreciation of Paricompsa as a real person and even that is limited.

We don't know how great were the changes made by Plautus when he adapted Philemon's play.
I rather supect not a great deal but do we have any of the original plays so we can make a comparison
More important we don't know how much should be taken at face value. It does seem to me that Eutychus
is the voice of Philemon but it is possible that the audience are intended to see how self serving
his defence of young men's rights really are. It may be that the audience is intended to see how empty
Charinus' protestations of love are.

None of this should be grounds for Daily Mail outrage should this play ever be set in a classics exam.
It is a play that should be treated not with reverence but a starting point for discussion and
a window into a society different from our own.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby cantator » Sun Jun 30, 2013 2:11 pm

I recently completed a long-term project to read and/or re-read all of Catullus. Among other editions I used Merrill's helpful work, in which he refers to Catullus as possessing "a taste perhaps too frank for our age", or something like that.

"Perhaps too frank..."

I love it.

Best,

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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby ivanus » Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:48 pm

I had the good fortune to find a couple of late 19th century editions of Horace and Catullus in used book stores at Christmas. They are Latin and English with certain passages left untranslated. There could be no clearer sign that these were the points of interest that I should focus on first.

This isn't really a new question. It's really about what cultural norms are appropriate for what ages and that will vary widely. What is fine in the Europe will not be so readily accepted by home schooling families in the American South, who may, however, be open to teaching their children Latin to help them advance academically.

Personally, I don't see this as a place to set the standard for advancing the Classics in schools. More significantly, it is a false dilemma. Surely there is a great deal that can be taught without distorting the culture. Certainly understanding the infidelity of the gods doesn't require some of the more graphic descriptions that you might find in some writers. Additionally, industrious students are unlikely to be locked out of anything interesting. As Byron noted in Don Juan:


http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21700/21700-h/21700-h.htm

His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort! of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.

Ovid 's a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon's morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don't think Sappho's Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil's songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with 'Formosum Pastor Corydon.'

Lucretius' irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can't help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?

Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learned men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy's vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;

For there we have them all 'at one fell swoop,'
Instead of being scatter'd through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall'd in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:24 pm

I studied Latin and Greek in an all-boys high school (not one with religious affiliations) nearly 50 years ago, in an era that was supposed to have been less open about sexual matters than today. Especially in the last two years, as we boys matured, male teachers and students were able to have frank and often humorous discussions about the sexual content of Greek and Latin texts. Without necessarily advocating single-sex education, I wonder whether it's more difficult to address these matters in a co-educational context.

I also suspect that despite the reticence of student editions, students and teachers have been chortling over Ovid, Catullus, the Greek Anthology, etc. since time immemorial.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby cantator » Thu Jul 11, 2013 11:41 am

@ivanus - Wonderful quote from Don Juan !

Of course we all know Yeats's famous poem The Scholars :

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

Best,

dp
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby mwh » Sat Oct 26, 2013 10:57 pm

Did no-one mention Fordyce's Catullus, in which "a few poems which do not lend themselves to comment in English have been omitted"? Don't you just love that "lend themselves to comment in English"? And by "a few" he meant 39, a full third of the total number. This was not 19th century, not Victorian, but 1961 -- the infamous sixties. Around the time Dover was introducing classicists to the word ****.
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby Calgacus » Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:34 am

mwh wrote:Did no-one mention Fordyce's Catullus, in which "a few poems which do not lend themselves to comment in English have been omitted"? Don't you just love that "lend themselves to comment in English"? And by "a few" he meant 39, a full third of the total number. This was not 19th century, not Victorian, but 1961 -- the infamous sixties. Around the time Dover was introducing classicists to the word ****.


One of my Latin lecturers at Uni had studied under the revered Fordyce, and he mentioned that the first thing he (Fordyce) did with a new university class was make sure the sexes were seated in separate groups!
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Re: Ovid Too Bawdy for Schools?

Postby mwh » Mon May 26, 2014 3:44 am

That does not surprise me one bit.

In my submitted post I wrote the word **** in full, so censorship is still alive and well - presumably in the interests of not attracting undesirable traffic.
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