R. L. Knutson
English 2337.02
Spring 2009

Study questions:
Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Advice: In class on Wednesday, January 28th, you will be given a choice of questions similar to those below and asked to choose one of them to develop into an essay. You may use any study notes you put together on these questions to write your in-class essay, including (of course) the text of Ovid’s Metamorphoses itself. Pretend that the question you choose is on an essay test, that is, pay more attention to the development and illustration of your argument than to niceties of introduction and conclusion.

1. Ovid is noted for his skill as storyteller.  This is due, in part, to the variety (and sensationalism) of his techniques. Discuss the following techniques, using one or more stories and quotations from them to explain and illustrate the techniques and their effectiveness in making the stories “good.”

  1. vivid description with an emphasis on violence
  2. vivid description with an emphasis on sexually explicit or provocative situations
  3. the use of metamorphosis as central or extraneous to the narrative
  4. literary and rhetorical devices including repetition, parallelism, alliteration, and comparative figures such as simile and metaphor


2. The “love” story is perhaps the most common narrative formula in Ovid’s anthology.  Are these stories all alike, or do they represent a variety of relationships, obstacles to relationships, and outcomes (happiness or sorrow)?  Using at least five stories as examples, suggest the range of experiences and attitudes toward sexual desire and love in Ovid’s stories.


3. Arachne did not choose wisely in the selection of stories to portray on her tapestry because she emphasized the misbehavior of the gods.  If you were invited to a weaving contest with an immortal, which stories would you choose to illustrate on your cloth and what would be the “message” of your illustrations? List at least five (5) stories you would include (to give a sense of the range of material you would draw from), and in a few sentences explain why each story is a good “fit” in terms of the message you want to send.


4. One agenda in this World Lit class is to learn more about ourselves and our culture in 21st-century America by analyzing our reactions to the stories from older and different cultures.  In what ways does Ovid’s Metamorphosis serve this agenda?  What features of Ovid’s stories cause you to reflect on your attitudes, beliefs, and preferences in such areas as the relationship between mortals and the gods/God and gender roles?  Explain, using various stories and details from them as evidence.


Do you have quotations from the text to illustrate and punctuate your argument? For these quotations, do you provide page numbers in parentheses (p. 58)?