I’m delighted to announce that the Ovid passage I’ve been preparing for the Online Companion to “The Worlds of Roman Women” has now gone up on the website! I’ve already written about the process of picking a passage and preparing the materials, and I wanted to finish off this mini-series of blog posts by writing a little bit about the process behind actually getting the passage up on line.
As I said in my previous post, the first thing to happen was a discussion between myself and my editor, Ann, about questions she had about the text and glosses I’d sent her. This collaborative work makes a vital contribution to the strengths of the Companion; I brought her up to speed on the latest scholarship on the text, in the form of Roy Gibson’s Cambridge commentary on Ars Amatoria 3, and she brought fresh eyes to a couple of passages of the text which I’d got unnecessarily twisted into knots over. We sorted out our issues by clarifying some of the notes and including a handful of references to Gibson’s commentary at appropriate points (Gibson’s text differs from the OCT, so the differences needed flagging up for anyone trying to use that edition). Ann also helped to refine the glosses I’d prepared and get them more in line with the Companion‘s house style.
When all of that was done, Ann sent me a link to a preliminary version of the webpage, with the hyperlinked passage, the essay and a sample picture. The picture is actually the one that’s on the webpage now, but we had a bit of a debate about whether we might use something different; I suggested one of the Tanagra figurines, but of course they’re Hellenistic, not Roman. Other options turned out to be rather thin on the ground; I hadn’t realised that we have practically no images of a woman smiling or laughing, and very few of anybody else either. There are satyrs, of course, and potentially the ‘drunk’ old woman at the Metropolitan, but other than that, women tend to wear more enigmatic expressions. (For what made the Romans laugh in the first place, I recommend a glance at John Clarke’s Looking at Laughter.)
The introductory essay underwent quite a drastic change during the editing process; over the initial editing process, the passage got tweaked more towards the Companion’s World of Flirtation, but in the end the essay was revamped to fit into the World of the Body, as I had originally hoped it would be. I also reworked my original draft to include a good section on the female audience of Ovid’s writing. This meant I had to scramble for a copy of Gibson to get hold of his comments on that side of Ovid’s audience, as I’d graduated by that point and lost my library privileges. This turned out to be a double bonus to me, as re-reading his introduction introduced me properly to the genre of erotodidacticism – that is, literature that seeks to teach about good erotic practice. This is going to be incredibly helpful for my Priapea paper and for my longer term project on the eroticisation of knowledge, once again illustrating how preparing a well-chosen passage for the Companion can help aspects of your scholarship that you don’t expect it to.
The final stage of the publication process was sending the full page, edits and all, around to the other collaborators and contributers attached to the Companion, and ask them to make suggestions for tweaks and improvements. When this stuff comes past me, I’m normally looking for rogue punctuation and glosses that don’t make sense to me as a translator, but occasionally you think of other information that could be usefully included in either the introductory essay or the gloss, spot dead hyperlinks, and all sort of other small edits that ultimately make each passage a constantly evolving and improving resource.
So, now the passage is up and ready to be used by teachers and students in the coming school year. I’m looking forward to having a go at the other Ars Amatoria passage I had promised I would prepare, although I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it; my priorities at the moment are getting the Stoic Exile article into shape and then making a proper start on revising the thesis into a book manuscript. But I hope that following me through the process of preparing a passage will encourage some of you to have a go at it!