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In preparation for writing this post, I went back and reviewed the Ars Amatoria because it made me laugh so much when we talked about it in class. So I wanted to find some kind of modern parallel. I wasn’t really sure where to start when Steve asked if I had looked at any dating websites; surely there would be something there. So that’s what I did. I googled a few things along the lines of “dating advice,” “tips for a first date,” and “how to woo a girl.” You can only imagine what kinds of things showed up on those searches, but I did find a pretty good website with a plethora of tips and advice on all topics relating to guy-girl relationships. Here it is if you need some advice.
Here are a couple of parallels that I found on the website: “If she responds to your gestures similarly, it’s a sign that she’s interested in talking to you too” (Amores 1.4). “Every guy has the potential to make a great girl fall for him.” “Be chivalrous.” If you’d like to do more comparing, you can find the full Ars Amatoria here.
I just get a kick out of the fact that most of the how-to advice that Ovid gives is still the same as today. It goes to show that there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and that as humans we haven’t changed much. You think maybe we’d learn something after this long. Maybe we have learned it, it was just all learned so long ago and it’s all effective so we just keep doing it. Anyways…
I looked at a book review that Mary Beard wrote on the book Latin Love Lessons: Put a Little Ovid in Your Life by Charlotte Higgins (I found this by typing “Latin Love Lessons Mary Beard” into google). Something that often comes up in our class that Beard addresses is the question of whether or not the women characters in love poetry are real or not. It seems that many of us persist in believing that these characters were all real, while Beard insists that at best they were “sex-in-the-head.” These characters and themes were more about writing than they were about love, and the authors are sometimes mocking/making fun of all the love stuff (as in the Ars Amatoria). But even if the main point is to use the love and women as literary devices and joke about stuff, it had to have happened in order to be able to joke about it in such a realistic and stupidly funny way (laughing at the people who do it…but it sucks when it’s you). The themes explored, whether to joke around or use as a metaphor for writing, are still real and present and experienced by many of us. I think that’s why we can relate to it so well and thus why we want all the people and situations to be real—so we don’t feel alone in our struggles. All of our classical studies can be good for us because there is so much we don’t know about the situations from so long ago. There is a lot of room for us to fill the stories with our own imaginations and interpretations. I think that is why we can learn so much from these studies, because they make us think and come up with conclusions for ourselves. And we have to be able to defend them based on the text. It’s fun for us to explore these things today, just as it was fun for the authors to explore ways to write.