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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Publication details for Prof. Jennifer Ingleheart

Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). Responding to Ovid’s Pygmalion episode and receptions of same-sex love in Classical antiquity: art, homosexuality, and the Curatorship of Classical culture in E. M. Forster’s ‘The Classical Annex’. Classical Receptions Journal 7(2): 141-158.

Author(s) from Durham


Forster’s posthumously published short story about a Roman statue which comes to life in a museum can be read as an appropriation of the myth of Pygmalion in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (10.243–97), the most famous example of a tale in which a statue becomes human. The Ovidian narrative frame gives homosexuality a significant role, as it is focalized through Orpheus, who rejects the many women who find him sexually attractive, and instead pursues young males (Met. 10.78–85). Ovid’s classic version of the Pygmalion myth has inspired a multitude of artistic responses, most of which have downplayed homosexual undertones. This article suggests that Forster’s ‘The Classical Annex’ offers a provocative counterpart. Forster’s response to Ovid can be seen as an attempt to emphasize the homosexual aspect of an ancient myth in which homosexuality was present but marginalized, and should be read against contemporary attempts to deny the homosexual nature of love in antiquity (an issue Forster touched upon in his novel Maurice). In contrast, Forster asserts the positive homosexual nature of Classical eros and the inadequacy of some contemporary would-be ‘curators’ of Classical culture via his reinterpretation of a classic myth of male heterosexual desire and domination.