Ovid, Roman poet, born
Lesson 1: “The Metamorphoses” and Genesis: A Comparison of Creation-Flood Stories
A comparison can cast light on the contrasting values of two civilizations or, conversely, point out that despite differences in the details, we humans all share certain universal constructs and personality traits.
In this lesson, students compare the stories of creation as told by Ovid in Book I of The Metamorphoses with the Biblical narrative of creation as told in Genesis: 1–2. They identify the significance of those elements and the emphasis placed on them.
“The Bible is the cultural heritage of the nation we live in, and also the heritage of the creation of literature in English,” states Robert Polhemus, Stanford University's English department. Many 21st-century students lack even basic layman’s Biblical literacy which can handicap them in discussing recurrent themes in Western cultural discourse. In order to fully engage students in Lesson 1, you may need to offer them background and context for the creation-flood stories in Genesis. (See Preparation and Resources)
The lesson’s initial comparison of creation narratives will be reinforced through a further comparison of the Biblical story of destruction by flood with Ovid’s story of destruction by flood.
This lesson is one part of a three lesson unit on The Metamorphoses. The three lessons may be taught in sequence, or each lesson can stand on its own. Teachers may link to the full unit with Guiding Questions, College and Career Readiness standards and Background. Lesson 1 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
Compare creation and destruction narratives found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book I, and in the biblical accounts in Genesis.
Lesson 2: “The Metamorphoses” and Modern Poetry: A Comparison of Mythic Characters
The great mythologies of the world take on the difficult subject that all humans must come to terms with—the inevitability of death. In Ovid’s tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. (Bk X:1–85) a husband, Orpheus, expresses such intense love for his wife, Eurydice, who has died and entered the underworld, that he dares to descend into that realm to beg for her life. This tragic tale is filled with universal emotions of passion, courage, doubt, and devotion. Ovid tells the story primarily from an androcentric point of view through the character, Orpheus. In the 20th –century a poet known by the initials H.D. took up the tale and put a different spin on it. H.D.’s poem, “Eurydice” offers the story from a woman’s point of view and articulates the emotions of a broken-hearted, and downright angry, Eurydice.
This lesson is part of a three-lesson unit on The Metamorphoses. In this lesson, students will compare the traditional story of Orpheus and Eurydice as told by Ovid with the poem “Eurydice” by the modern day poet H.D. The three lessons may be taught in sequence, or each lesson can stand on its own. Teachers may link to the full unit, with Guiding Questions, College and Career Readiness standards, and Background. Lesson 2 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9.
Compare the elements of the Orpheus and Eurydice story as told by Ovid in The Metamorphoses with the 20th-century version written by poet H.D.
Lesson 3: “The Metamorphoses” and Later Works of Art: A Comparison of Mythic Imagery
Ovid’s mythical stories and characters in The Metamorphoses have been the source of inspiration for generations of visual artists in both painting and sculpture, through the ages. Since the Middle Ages, each generation of artists has re-interpreted the myths, seeing them through the lens of a particular era, art style, and commentary. Renaissance sculptors, the Baroque painters who decorated the walls and ceilings of Versailles, the Pre-Raphaelites at the end of the 19th century—all found inspiration in these tales written centuries before.
In this lesson, students will survey works of art based on myths from The Metamorphoses. The artworks are derived from many different eras and schools. Students will then compare them with the passages detailing Ovid’s original tales to understand the artists’ frames of reference and choices.
This lesson is one part of a three lesson unit on The Metamorphoses. The three lessons may be taught in sequence, or each lesson can stand on its own. Teachers may link to the full unit with Guiding Questions, College and Career Readiness standards and Background. Lesson 3 aligns with CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7.
Compare Ovid’s original stories in The Metamorphoses with later artistic representations of the same stories and their themes.