Third Place Books and Community Bookstore (Brooklyn) are thrilled to welcome translator Classics professor Stephanie McCarter for a discussion of her new rendering of Ovid's Metamorphoses, in beautiful hardcover from Penguin Classics. In this historic new edition, Stephanie McCarter addresses accuracy in translation and its representation of women, gendered dynamics of power, and sexual violence in Ovid’s classic. McCarter will be joined in conversation by playwright and librettist Cheri Magid.
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Ovid’s Metamorphoses is an epic poem, but one that upturns almost every convention. There is no main hero, no central conflict, and no sustained objective. What it is about (power, defiance, art, love, abuse, grief, rape, war, beauty, and so on) is as changeable as the beings that inhabit its pages. The sustained thread is power and how it transforms us, both those of us who have it and those of us who do not. For those who are brutalized and traumatized, transformation is often the outward manifestation of their trauma. A beautiful virgin is caught in the gaze of someone more powerful who rapes or tries to rape them, and they ultimately are turned into a tree or a lake or a stone or a bird. The victim’s objectification is clear: They are first a visual object, then a sexual object, and finally simply an object. Around 50 of the epic’s tales involve rape or attempted rape of women. Past translations have obscured or mitigated Ovid’s language so that rape appears to be consensual sex. Through her translation, McCarter considers the responsibility of handling sexual and social dynamics.
Then why continue to read Ovid? McCarter proposes Ovid should be read because he gives us stories through which we can better explore ourselves and our world, and he illuminates problems that humans have been grappling with for millennia. Careful translation of rape and the body allows readers to see Ovid’s nuances clearly and to better appreciate how ideas about sexuality, beauty, and gender are constructed over time. This is especially important since so many of our own ideas about these phenomena are themselves undergoing rapid metamorphosis, and Ovid can help us see and understand this progression. The Metamorphoses holds up a kaleidoscopic lens to the modern world, one that offers us the opportunity to reflect on contemporary discussions about gender, sexuality, race, violence, art, and identity.
“The Metamorphoses has it all: sex, death, love, violence, gods, mortals, monsters, nymphs, all the great forces, human and natural. With this vital new translation, Stephanie McCarter has not only updated Ovid's epic of transformation for the modern ear and era --- she's done something far more powerful. She's paid rigorous attention to the language of the original and brought to us its ferocity, its sensuality, its beauty, its wit, showing us how we are changed, by time, by violence, by love, by stories, and especially by power. Here is Ovid, in McCarter's masterful hands, refreshed, renewed, and pulsing with life.”
—Nina MacLaughlin, author of Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung
“Stephanie McCarter’s gorgeous verse translation of the Metamorphoses is ground-breaking not just in its refreshingly accessible approach to Ovid’s syntax and formal devices but for how she reframes the controversial subjects that have made Ovid, and Ovidian scholarship, so fraught for contemporary readers. McCarter’s translation understands that the Metamorphoses is a complex study of power and desire, and the dehumanizing ways that power asserts itself through and on a variety of bodies. McCarter’s deft, musical, and forthright translation returns much needed nuance to Ovid’s tropes of violence and change, demonstrating to a new generation of readers how our identities are always in flux, while reminding us all of the Metamorphoses’ enduring relevance.”
—Paisley Rekdal, author of Nightingale
Stephanie McCarter is a professor of Classical Literature at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. She has previously published two books on Latin poetry, including a translation of Horace’s Epodes, Odes, and Carmen Saeculare. Her writing has appeared in The Sewanee Review, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, The Millions, Lapham’s Quarterly, Hyperallergic, Psyche, Eidolon, and elsewhere.
Cheri Magid is currently writing a scripted podcast, The Classics, which will star Sarah Jessica Parker, for Audible UK. Her film/play A Poem and a Mistake was presented by Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne in 2021 as part of their exhibit An Autobiography of Daphne, featured in the BBC Radio 4 podcast Modern Metamorphoses, and will be performed live at Delaware Rep in 2023. The Sydney Morning Herald says of A Poem, “You’ll never think of classical literature again without these women coming into your head.” Cheri’s opera Penelope and the Geese, for which she wrote the libretto, aired on Autogram, Radio Belgrade 2 in Belgrade, Serbia May 2022 and will be performed in May 2023 at UNAM’s El Aleph Festival in Mexico City. She also wrote for the Emmy-award-winning children’s television show Arthur and is an Assistant Arts Professor in Dramatic Writing at New York University.
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