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ARTH 53 — The Book of Change: Ovid, Art, and Us

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Apr 27—Jun 1
Time: 6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 29
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $385
Instructor(s): Alexander Nemerov
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Apr 27—Jun 1
6 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 29
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Alexander Nemerov
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
The Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from the 1st century CE, tells the stories of gods and mortals changed from one state of being to another. Peasants turn into frogs, women into trees and reeds, boys into flowers, lovers into lions, stones into human beings. The whole world churns, and nothing is as it appears. Everything has a history—a backstory—telling of another time, another existence.

In this course, we will look closely at great works of art inspired by Ovid, including paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, and Nicolas Poussin and sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, to consider the moment of change as a matter of special beauty and power. If we, like Ovid’s characters, undergo transformations in our lives, how can we think of art inspired by the Metamorphoses as a poetic revelation of who we are in these most changeable moments?

A course for those set in stone, or believing themselves to be, ”The Book of Change” explores transformation as a crux, a delight, a torture, in which a person lives most intensely. It asks, plaintively, what becomes of us?

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Stanford

Alexander Nemerov has been voted one of Stanford’s top 10 professors by The Stanford Daily. He is the author of many books on art and cultural history. His newest book is Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York. He is the chair of Stanford's Department of Art & Art History.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required)Ovid, Stephanie McCarter trans., Metamorphoses (ISBN 978-0525505990)