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Rachael Bundy (Exeter): 'Teach sad Philomel a louder note’: intersectional responses to Ovid in the long eighteenth century

Seminar Associated with the Centre for Classical Reception


Event details

Ovid's Philomela narrative, as told in the sixth book of his Metamorphoses, was widely engaged with by the female poets of the long eighteenth century: the myth was so popular that half of all new female poets published in the first decade of the eighteenth century included a reference to the myth in their volumes of poetry. These poets typically hailed from positions of social privilege and, as a result, had obtained a greater degree of literacy than was typical for the time, thus giving them access to Ovid's oeuvre - typically in translation, but occasionally in the original Latin. However, by the end of the century, two labouring-class poets had joined this collective of women referencing Philomela in their poetry. Mary Leapor and Anne Yearsley are, therefore, of intrinsic interest as they represent a different model of engagement with the classical tradition; as lower-class women, they are doubly marginalised. My paper shall approach both women’s work through an intersectional lens: I shall explore how, as both women and members of the lower classes, Leapor and Yearsley’s representations of Philomela can be differentiated from the Philomelas imagined by their middle- and upper-class female peers.


Washington Singer 219