Tag Archives: Metamorphoses

Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)
Pygmalion and Galatea by Giulio Bargellini (1875-1936)

This address was delivered by C.J. Armstrong at Concordia University Irvine’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2016.

President Krueger, it is an honor to have been asked to deliver the commencement address this year. For this I thank you. And I repeat the welcome to our distinguished guests, our honorees, the regents of our university, my fellow faculty, the parents, family and friends of our graduates. But above all my hat is off to the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of 2016.

It’s a special honor for me because it wasn’t too long ago that my hat was on here, when I walked across this stage at the Bren Center, graduating from University of California, Irvine after a lengthy study of the greatest poet ever born on earth, Ovid, who died on this very day, give or take a month or two, one year shy of 2000 years ago. You know Ovid: he’s the poet who told all those wonderful mythological stories in the Metamorphoses about people turning to stone through divine retribution or bad luck, and even a couple who change from statues into real human people. You know, like the story of Pygmalion, who didn’t like any of the girls in his class so he made a statue of a woman and prayed to the gods that he might love someone like his ivory girl; he kissed the statue and it came to life. What a story!

I might ask, what does a classicist like me, someone who reads mythology and talks to dead guys like Ovid all day long, have to share with you graduates? Continue reading Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts

The Gods Have Problems

Minerva and Arachne

This is the second post of a two-part essay on Ovid’s depiction of the limitations of natural and supernatural answers to the human condition.

This brief study of the Metamorphoses began as an invitation to a colleague’s class to consider how Ovid’s mythography (writing of myth) addresses “the natural and the supernatural.” I argue that Ovid lives on as a significant voice in the canon to put pressure on the very notion of what we mean when we say those words. Continue reading The Gods Have Problems

The Limitations of Science and Art

This is the first post of a two-part essay on Ovid’s depiction of the limitations of natural and supernatural answers to the human condition.

How many of our undergraduate students are encouraged to find quick comfort in answers scientific because the transcendent is so unknowable? Or—perhaps a problem in our secular institutions to the same degree as it may be a caricature of the most fundamentalist of our church-related institutions—to rely more on the supernatural as a more certain answer to life’s vicissitudes than the natural world can offer? As scholars, we owe it to ourselves and our students always to consider skeptically the limitations of either endeavor—and the ancient world’s greatest poet points up just this problem as well. Continue reading The Limitations of Science and Art