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Briseis' Elegiac Failure in Heroides 3 Open Access


Other title
ancient Latin literature
classical studies
female voice
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Glaicar, Brieanne T
Supervisor and department
Nagel, Rebecca ( History and Classics)
Examining committee member and department
Pownall, Frances ( History and Classics)
Stewart, Christine ( English and Film Studies)
Stewart, Selina ( History and Classics)
Nagel, Rebecca (History and Classics)
Department of History and Classics
Ancient Societies and Cultures
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
Ovid’s Heroides is unique for its presentation of female speech. It is a collection of letters written in elegiac couplets, each one narrated by a different mythological heroine. Each heroine is familiar to Ovid’s audience because she has already appeared in works of other authors. Each letter is unique and the ways in which the heroines express themselves is distinct. Although each letter is narrated by a heroine, they are truly authored by Ovid and therefore, each heroine’s speech is bound to Ovid’s own motivations. This creates a constant tension within each text that is the product of the long-established literary tradition and the heroines’ interpretation of their roles within the literary tradition. This relationship allows for Ovid to embed dramatic irony into each letter and showcase his authorial wit. This wit is realized in Heroides 3, a letter from Briseis, a captive woman, sent to Achilles, the greatest of the Greek soldiers. Ovid allows Briseis an opportunity for speech that is limited in her original text, Homer’s Iliad. My thesis will examine the relationship between Briseis’ epic experience and the construction of her doomed elegiac letter in Heroides 3. Ultimately, I will argue that Briseis’ failure as an elegiac puella is not the result of her attempt at elegiac speech, but of her audience. In an exercise of his authorial power and wit, Ovid elects to retain Achilles’ harsh epic nature thereby setting Briseis up for elegiac failure.
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