IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 229: Eroticism and the Difficulties of Positions of Dependence

Monday 9 July 2012, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Cristiana Sogno, Department of Classics, Fordham University
Paper 229-aObscenity in the Ars versificatoria by Matthew of Vendôme
(Language: English)
Klementyna Aura Glińska, Uniwersytet Warszawski / Université Paris IV - Sorbonne
Index terms: Education, Language and Literature - Latin, Rhetoric
Paper 229-bKeeping Up Appearances: Negotiating Necrophilia in Petrarch's Rerum Familiarum Libri
(Language: English)
Anna Wilson, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Downtown
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Latin, Religious Life, Sexuality
Paper 229-cOvidian Persona and the Spectre of Social Control in the Poetry of Baudri of Bourgueil
(Language: English)
Susannah Brower, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Downtown
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Monasticism, Sexuality

Paper -a:
Scurrilous and obscene, simply disgusting – that is how Aubrey E. Galyon judged the text he translated, the Ars versificatoria by Matthew of Vendôme, the 12th-century schoolbook, still valid in the 15th-century system of education, inspired above all by Horace, Cicero and the author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium. The reason for such a harsh critique were some obscene poems included in the treatise among the exempla – the phenomenon extraordinary and outstanding as far as 12th- and 13th-century poetriae are concerned. The part of the exemplary material which constituted the collection of invectives directed against Matthew’s rival, a poet and a teacher called Rufus. The presence of the rest of improper passages, assumed Galyon, could be explained only by the perverse taste of the author. The aim of my proposal is to define the status of obscenity in the Ars versificatoria: in Matthew’s theory of poetry; in his polemic with Rufus; as well as in his pedagogical practice.

Paper -b:
In a letter from his walking holiday along the Rhine, Petrarch tells a curious local folktale about the emperor Charlemagne’s sexual obsession with the dead body of his mistress, caused by a magic ring. Love for the dead, from Laura to Cicero, is a central theme of Petrarch’s writing, but his anxieties about its propriety are just as central; he was once accused of necromancy for his interest in Virgil. I argue that his speaking of the unspeakable taboo of necrophilia forms the centre of a concerted effort in Petrarch’s letters to legitimate his own Christian and masculine identity, and to distance himself from the darker side of love for the dead by displacing it onto queer, foreign, and feminine bodies.

Paper -c:
Baudri, abbot of Bourgueil from 1078-1107, wrote many epistolary poems indebted to Ovid’s poetry. This paper will analyze the third poem in Baudri’s collection, eighty hexameter verses which chastise a youth for his excessive pride. The poem is in keeping with Baudri’s duty, as abbot, to correct the behavior of the boys in his charge. But the letter is not entirely typical; its lengthy description of the boy’s beauty is excessive even by the standards of the genre. It uses allusion to classical literature, rather than spiritual precepts, to admonish the boy, and these allusions are always eroticized. I argue that Baudri’s poems are a form of self-assertion, failing to comply with the church’s expectations of someone of his station, and that his deliberate undermining of his own discourse represents a means of engaging with anxieties about the contemporary Gregorian Reforms.