Roman frieze

“The Language of Ovidian Exile: DuBellay’s Roman Regrets”
Stephen Hinds (University of Washington, Seattle)

2000 years after the expulsion of Rome’s then-leading poet to the Black Sea in AD 8-9, this paper will offer a bimillennial glimpse of the impact of Ovid on the literature of exile, and especially upon the work of writers who (like Ovid) find themselves caught in a nexus between exile, alienation and a professed loss of linguistic identity or capacity. In particular, it will focus on the case of the 16th century French poet Joachim DuBellay. In the 1550s DuBellay spent more than four years in Rome, working for an uncle who was a cardinal; and it was here that his growing sense of alienation from the politics of the Papal court gave shape to his Regrets, a sonnet collection in French whose set-up is overtly modelled on the Tristia of Ovid. The governing paradox is that DuBellay’s post-Ovidian place of exile and alienation – his Black Sea – is the very city from which Ovid was exiled and to which he longed to return, Rome. The (archly manufactured) plot thickens when DuBellay is forced by the incomprehension of the locals to abandon his native French and to write poetry in the language of his place of exile: Latin.

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