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Young Ovid

A Life Recreated

List Price: $25.00

June 10, 2014 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 272 Pages | ISBN 9781619023314
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"Middlebrook’s well-researched work provides insights into the diverse elements of Roman life, from horses to education, and even divorce. But Middlebrook is most persuasive when she interprets how Ovid came to write his masterpieces…” —Publishers Weekly

After writing two extremely well received biographies—the first about Anne Sexton and the second about poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath—world-renowned scholar Diane Middlebrook’s final project was a study of Ovid’s work. Though he has been dead for over two thousand years and had left no personal records—not even the name of his mother—his poetry endures. Middlebrook was convinced that her intimate knowledge of Ovid’s poetry and the approach she used in Her Husband (winner of the Prix Du Meilleur Livre Estranger), combined with a deep immersion into the Rome of Ovid’s time, would enable her to write what could, without bragging, be called an Ovidian biography.

However, severe health issues interfered with Middlebrook’s work, and she was ultimately unable to complete this ambitious project before her death in 2007. She left behind an extraordinary look at the conditions and customs to which Ovid was exposed as a young Roman, as well as an acute interpretation of his family and personal life, gleaned from close readings of his poetry and letters from exile. Exhaustively researched and carefully constructed, Middelbrook’s portrayal of Ovid is certain to be studied by scholars and read by historians for year to come.

About Diane Middlebrook

Diane Middlebrook was an American biographer, poet, and teacher. She taught feminist studies for many years at Stanford University. She is best known for New York Times bestseller Anne Sexton: A Biography, the critically acclaimed Her Husband: Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath, A Marriage, and Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton.


“Middlebrook’s book itself is an example of life’s sudden and painful transformations… All three parts: the tales of life in ancient Rome, the sections on Ovid’s poetry, and the fiction, are engaging… It is an engaging introduction to a poet whose days are over but whose work remains.” —Washington Free Beacon

“Middlebrook has left us a curious mix of fact and fiction. Each of the three chapters includes both the meticulous and fascinating fruits of Middlebrook’s research…” —Booklist

“Middlebrook died before she could complete this biography of the Roman poet Ovid, but what she did finish is certainly of great value…. Middlebrook’s well-researched work provides insights into the diverse elements of Roman life, from horses to education, and even divorce. But Middlebrook is most persuasive when she interprets how Ovid came to write his masterpieces…” —Publishers Weekly

“With no historical evidence for the particulars of Ovid’s life, Middlebrook relies on histories of society, politics and culture in ancient Rome, as well as the poet’s writings, to draw intriguing inferences about his experiences, personality and especially his motivation to become a poet instead of a magistrate, as his father intended…. In this inventive, hybrid biography, Middlebrook grounds Ovid’s poetry in an insightful reconstruction of his life.” —Kirkus

“The imaginative reconstruction of episodes inferred from Ovid’s poetry and its historical background is a brilliant solution to the problem facing a biographer – the scarcity of documented facts about his life. But few writers could have carried off this daring feat as convincingly as Diane Middlebrook.  It is a tragedy that she did not live to complete her book, but half a loaf is better than none, especially when it is as full of nourishment for the mind as this one.  Beautifully written, and supplemented by a generous selection of Ovid’s verse in translation, it is the ideal introduction to Ovid for readers who are aware of his importance but not of the context in which he lived and wrote his poetry.” —David Lodge, Booker-shortlisted novelist, critic, and author of Lives in Writing

“Middlebrook has brought to an ailing genre (the biography of famous poets) a combination of talent, humanity and skill: respect for evidence, the tenacious spirit of a private eye, and deep emotional intelligence. This book is her ultimate and heroic challenge: resurrecting the life of Ovid with Diane’s distinctive faith in the possibility (and in a sense, the moral duty) of combining life and literature.” —Alessandro Barchiesi, Professor of Latin Literature, University of Siena at Arezzo and G. and H. Spogli Professor of Italian Studies, Stanford University

“Wrought from rigorous scholarship and bold imagination, Young Ovid brings to life the youthful poet as a member of the Roman elite, who aspired to lasting literary fame rather than ephemeral military glory.  Diane Middlebrook’s lyrical rendition of Ovid’s quest is innovative and dazzling.” —Marilyn Yalom, Senior Scholar, Clayman Institute for Gender Institute, Stanford University, and author of How the French Invented Love

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