Actaeon in London: Heaney, Hughes, Shawcross, Wallinger

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In recent years, several important poets and artists have responded to the myth of Actaeon in their creative works, taking Ovid’s Metamorphoses as their starting point, but also reacting to the set of Titian’s paintings which were reunited at the National Gallery in 2012. This paper focuses on the installations by Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger, and the poem by Seamus Heaney, which were commissioned by the National Gallery in 2012, as well as on Ted Hughes’ translation in his Tales from Ovid (1998). All these works focus in different ways on key elements of Ovid’s episode, first and foremost the tension between innocence and desire in Actaeon’s actions, which is also at the heart of Titian’s influential painting and Hughes’ rewriting, as well as on the voyeuristic involvement of the spectator. A comparative analysis of these recent interpretations of the myth also offers the opportunity to delve deeper in the most peculiar features of Ovid’s text and its explicit autobiographical implications, and highlights his systematic occlusion of any narrative element which may be seen to foreground Actaeon’s culpability. As far as I know this is the first time that Shawcross' and Wallinger's works are discussed in this context, and in connection with broades issues of Ovidian criticism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOvidio. Prospettive per il Terzo Millennio
Place of PublicationTeramo
Number of pages531
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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