In my current research project, or the one that is taking up what brainspace I have free from completing job applications, I’m working up a text and commentary for the Online Companion to “The Worlds of Roman Women”. “The Worlds of Roman Women” is a language textbook designed to teach Latin at the intermediate level with a thematic interest in teaching students about cultural history at the same time; the Companion takes it that one step further and provides texts with hyperlinked glosses, a short essay to introduce each passage, and appropriate supporting images. The texts are all organised into Worlds, so teachers can pick passages that look at marriage, the family, the body, flirtation, or any other area that interests them.
I’m a collaborator with the site, which basically involves proofreading new contributions when they go up, and contributing my own passages now and then. I’ve previously done two texts and commentaries; the first was Tacitus’ account of the death of Pompeia Paulina, Seneca’s wife, while the second was a description of Seneca’s aunt and her courage after her husband was killed in a shipwreck from his Consolation to Helvia. As you may have astutely spotted, these two passages are both pretty directly related to my Ph.D. thesis. Half of chapter one was dedicated to the Consolation to Helvia, while the Tacitus passage provided pretty crucial evidence for chapter three.
This time, though, I’ve decided to go a different route, for two reasons. First, I’m bored of prose! Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve spent my whole Ph.D. looking at prose, and I wanted to ease myself back into some poetry, not least of all because I have two nascent articles that look at poetic texts. Second, the Body world of the Companion is a bit thin, and I thought it would be a good idea to bulk it up. This gives me an excellent reason to get into one of my favourite texts that I haven’t been able to play with for a while: Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, and more specifically, book three thereof.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ars will be interested to know that it’s Ovid’s poetic handbook for how to seduce members of the opposite sex – where to hang about to meet girls, what pick-up lines to use, what techniques to employ to gain a furtive caress (and more), that sort of thing. The first two books address male readers, but the third decides that all’s fair in love and war, and attempts to teach the female reader how she might get her man, going so far as to advise how to ensure the most flattering views of one’s body during sex. We can’t really include those kinds of passages in a resource that’s targeting high school as well as college students, but there’s plenty of less X-rated material about posture and how to carry oneself that’s good fodder for the Companion’s intended audience. The passage I’m currently preparing focuses on how to laugh and cry attractively, and the most becoming way to walk – and I’ll talk a little bit about how I’m preparing the text another time.