Echoes and Reflections. Memory and Memorials in Ovid and Marie de France.
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This study examines tales from The Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-18 AD) and from The Lais by the French poet Marie de France (fl. mid-to late twelfth century) to explore a paradox: how can a vibrant, complex, and timeless vision be conveyed in convention-informed and time-bound language? Marie plays against Ovid’s tales to probe the dilemma, thereby echoing Ovid who does the same to the canonical literary monuments of his day. Both poets suggest that poetry can avoid the flattening effect of monumental canonizing not only by the creative use of literary echoes, but also by shifting perspectives on the conventional, which in turn, can encourage readers to see reflections of many stories in any given tale. Ovid and Marie suggest and encourage in this manner by presenting literary love’s topoi and traditional lovers from a variety of metaliterary perspectives, thereby eliciting active readerly memory as well as providing the opportunity to see the conventional afresh, activity that allows even canonical texts to become living memorials.