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  • Topic: Love, Ovid, Ars Amatoria
  • Pages : 1 (331 words )
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  • Published : January 27, 2013
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The love letter is probably almost as old as written civilization itself. Examples from Ancient Egypt range from the most formal - 'the royal widow...Ankhesenamun wrote a letter to the king of the Hittites, Egypt's old enemy, begging him to send one of his sons to Egypt to marry her' - to the down-to-earth: let me 'bathe in thy presence, that I may let thee see my beauty in my tunic of finest linen, when it is wet'.[2] Imperial China might demand a higher degree of literary skill: when a heroine, faced with an arranged marriage, wrote to her childhood sweetheart, he exclaimed, 'what choice talent speaks in her well-chosen words...everything breathes the style of a Li T'ai Po. How on earth can anyone want to marry her off to some humdrum clod?'.[3] In Ovid's Rome, 'the tricky construction and reception of the love letter' formed the centre of his Ars Amatoria or Art of Love: 'the love letter is situated at the core of Ovidian erotics'.[4] The Middle Ages saw the formal development of the Ars dictaminis, including the art of the love letter, from opening to close. For salutations, 'the scale in love letters is nicely graded from "To the noble and discreet lady P., adorned with every elegance, greeting" to the lyrical fervours of "Half of my soul and light of my eyes...greeting, and that delight which is beyond all word and deed to express"'.[5] The substance similarly 'ranges from doubtful equivoque to exquisite and fantastic dreaming', rising to appeals for 'the assurance "that you care for me the way I care for you"'.[6] The love letter continued to be taught as a skill at the start of the eighteenth century, as in Richard Steele's Spectator.[7] Perhaps in reaction, the artificiality of the concept came to be distrusted by the Romantics: '"A love-letter? My letter - a love-letter? It...came straight from my heart"'.[8] [edit]
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