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Poetic Art Assignment

In a recent post (July 5) I discussed my love for exploring the connections between Latin poetry and art in my classes.

Within that post I shared suggestions for a class lesson that would integrate the analysis of poetic imagery with pieces of art.  In such lessons we must begin with the work of master artists.  We learn what is truly beautiful by studying the work of those who have mastered the art form, whether that be in the visual arts or in the literary arts.  The next step in the art-poetry study is for the students themselves to become creative interpreters of the poem.  In my last post we looked at the story of Pyramus & Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Liber IV).  So let us continue with that same story in our next art lesson.

We begin by reading the story in the original Latin and soaking up the masterful wordcraft of the poet Ovid.  We discuss word choice, arrangement, imagery, and all sorts of literary devices.  We next look at works by master artists to see how they interpreted Ovid’s poem upon their canvases.  We discuss the art in light of the poetry (see July 5 post for guidelines).  Next, I assign the students the task of producing their own piece of art that interprets one scene one moment from the poem.  After looking upon the work of masterful artists this naturally causes a bit of intimidation.  I comfort the students by assuring them that I don’t expect a masterpiece.  I do expect their best work, careful, neat, thoughtful, with attention to the detail in the poem.   I am pleased to share the work of one of my freshmen ladies below.  This is her interpretation of Book IV, Line 71:

saepe, ubi constiterant hinc Thisbe, Pyramus illinc

Kirk_Ovid_05_2016

 

What I absolutely love about this particular piece is the manner in which she interprets the chiastic imagery from Ovid’s work.  A chiasmus is an ABBA word pattern.  Here the word arrangement highlights the tortuous juxtaposition of the two lovers separated by the wall.  The wall itself becomes an impersonal character within the story.  Later on the young lovers would talk to the wall both chastising it for their separation while also expressing gratitude for the crack (seen here above Pyramus’ head) that allows them to share secret whispers of gentle affection.  The astute observer may notice that the artist did change one word from Ovid’s verse.  The artist writes semper [always] where Ovid wrote saepe [often].  This is and intentional change.  The artist has chosen silhouettes to illustrate the spirit that remains for these young lovers – always and forever juxtaposed against the wall in Ovid’s story. Many other pieces I receive have used the death scene (my students seem to love gore) and include a greater multitude of details. This piece, however, was bold enough in its abstract simplicity to drive home the image of the wall and the manner in which it divided the two lovers, here Thisbe, Pyramus there – always.

Well done, my young poetic artist!

One Response to “Poetic Art Assignment”

  • Karen Moore:

    This art piece was just awarded 3rd place at the Austin Area Junior Classical League Convention. The judges (and many other observers) were deeply impressed by the manner in which this artist interpreted Ovid’s poem.

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