Nature Art : Ovid's poetics of creation in the metamorphoses

Thesis / Dissertation


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The writing of a thesis, like any extended adventure, is a mix of excited discovery and rediscovery with occasional disappointment and misgiving (one is seldom either as original or as precise as one had hoped to be). As I approached the final stages of this small hommage to a favourite poet, I experienced one of those happy co-incidences, which seem to be one among the many unforeseeable delights of literary activity. I chanced upon a recent edition of Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We. In his introduction to this dystopian classic, the translator seems to be invoking my Ovid, that is my imagined poet, the one I have conjectured from sayings and doings and writings into an atmosphere or personality, over years of reading and these latest of intense research. "Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was born ... in the small provincial town of Lebedyan, which lay on the bank of the River Don 200 miles to the south of Moscow ... He died in exile in Paris on March 10, 1937. Memoirists recall him as an infinitely citified man, dapper to a fault, and as elegant in manner as in dress ... The point is that he combined in his person the two belligerents, the City and the Country…" Provincial youth, outstanding urbanity and final exile is nice co-incidence. Combining the belligerents of country and city is family likeness. In science fiction on the one hand, in eclectic hybridity of science, myth and philosophy on the other, both are artists who deliver portraits of their present world through images of another fantastical time. The spirit of imaganitiveness, invention and creatively sustained paradox endures.