Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Robert Ketterer


My dissertation explores several topics recurring throughout Ovid’s single Heroides. When, how, and why does Ovid restructure tragic, epic, or pastoral stories into elegy? How do his heroines deal with their lovers starting relationships with new women, and what method of coping with abandonment is the most effective? What is the role of magic in the Heroides, what rules does it follow, and who uses it successfully? How does Ovid capitalize on the connection between elegy and lament, and which heroines does he use to do so? Finally, what is the role of writing in the Heroides, how does Ovid use the character of Sappho in the collection, and how does the Sappho epistle help readers interpret the rest of the Heroides?

The letters of Briseis (3), Phaedra (4), Hermione (8), and Oenone (5) transform previously epic, tragic, and pastoral worlds and inhabitants into elegiac contexts to show how they wish their men to accept the role of the elegiac lover. Ovid uses these reclassifications to explore the boundaries of elegy and show how thorough knowledge of audience and the genre are necessary for success. Oenone (5), Hypsipyle (6), Deianira (9), and Medea (12) each see their lovers replace them with another woman; Ovid uses their different methods—emulating the new woman’s qualities, attempting to regain the lover’s affection, and seeking revenge—to discover which approach will achieve its desired purpose.

Ovid’s construction of magic as a practical tool is established in the letter of Medea (12), and can be applied to the epistles of Deianira (9), Hypsipyle (6), and Laodamia (13) to interpret the magical practices in those epistles. Ovid explores a different facet of the elegiac genre by using the traditional link between elegy and epitaph in the letters of Phyllis (2), Dido (7), and Hypermnestra (14), but alludes to it in the epistles of Canace (11), Ariadne (10), and Deianira (9) to bridge the gap between literary characters and his readers’ reality.

Finally, the Sappho epistle (15) provides a tool for interpreting both the individual letters of the Heroides and Ovid’s own concerns. By using the famous poetess as one of his heroines, Ovid connects himself and his reputation to hers. His character Sappho provides a lens through which we can examine all of the heroines who are at a crisis point, a metaphorical cliff’s edge, as they write.


elegy, genre, Heroides, magic, Ovid, Sappho


vii, 185 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 179-185).


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Copyright © 2017 Jacqueline Adrienne Jones

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