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Love by the Numbers

Form and Meaning in the Poetry of Catullus

Helena Dettmer

The poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus survived antiquity by the slimmest of threads. This study concerns the controversial issue of whether the order of the collection was contrived by the poet himself. Love by the Numbers offers new and compelling evidence that Catullus shaped the work into an exquisitely interrelated whole. The aesthetic patterning is highly significant because it offers fresh solutions to longstanding problems of text and interpretation. The development of deeply learned philological analysis in the service of elucidating widely applicable human concerns makes this book a relative rarity in the field of Classics, a work of hard scholarship that informs a human sensibility toward matters of the heart.
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Helena Dettmer

In his 1995 Teubner edition, J. B. Hall separates Tristia 1.5, 1.9, 3.4, 4.4, 5.2, and 5.7 into two poems. One reviewer of Hall’s edition is highly critical of the editor for not justifying the separation of these poems despite the fact the divisions have manuscript support. Because of the sorry state of the textual transmission of Ovid's five books of Tristia, it is sometimes difficult to determine the beginning and end of an individual poem if that poem resumes thematically and verbally where the previous poem concludes. The aim of this study is to show that definitive evidence can be offered to justify division of these six elegies into two poems. Structure combined with theme serves as an analytical tool that defines the beginning and end of the twelve literary pieces under consideration and highlights their artistry. Resolution of the issue of unity enhances our interpretation of the independent poems and our understanding of the complex interplay among poems within each poetry-book. The careful and often brilliant craftsmanship of the poems and of the books in which they appear reaffirms that Ovid’s repeated deprecation of the quality of his literary work composed during his period of exile in the Black Sea region is simply a pose to attract sympathy and support from his Roman audience.