Analytical Onomasticon to the Metamorphoses of Ovid

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Editor Willard McCarty


This project came to an end in 2004. The page remains, but not all the contents work.

The Analytical Onomasticon is a reference work to persons and places in the Metamorphoses of Ovid. It is intended to assist the study of a poem that has remained curiously intractable to the literary critical quest for its coherence. The problem has not been a want of schemes, but rather too many, or at least more than can be accounted for by any one reckoning. As Brooks Otis pointed out years ago, Ovid sports with the idea of continuity: at the same time, and often with the same device, both supporting and undermining it. The Onomasticon assumes no particular theory of how the poem is constructed, nor that it has a single construction. Yet it is based on the idea that Ovid's is a serious play, not meant to scatter our attention but to redirect it. This book is intended to assist that redirection by supplying several different means for commanding the most extensive and significant body of textual evidence for the interrelation of persons, hence the interconnection of stories: the words and phrases that refer to and so name them. The Onomasticon is not limited to the quest for continuity in change, but its explicit aim is to further understanding of the poem as a coherent or, more accurately, cohesible work of literature.

For these purposes "name" is defined broadly as any word, phrase or clause that refers to one or more persons or places, i.e. an "appellative" (OED s.v. B). The design of the Onomasticon is based inductively on the particular characteristics of Ovidian appellatives and on the nature of the entities to which they refer. Names have great potential for the study of the Metamorphoses because they are neither verbal data nor narrative but metalinguistic creations that combine properties of both. On the one hand, because names are close to data, they can be treated consistently, by explicit rules, and thus are amenable to computational processing with important consequences I will explain below. On the other hand, because they invoke the stories in which they occur, names in turn bear relatively well-defined narrative meaning. Hence they are apt for modeling patterns of interconnection otherwise quite difficult or impossible to reach systematically.


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