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Jean-Marie Fritz: Ovide moralisés latins. Arnoul d'Orléans, Allegoriae. Jean de Garlande, Integumenta. Giovanni del Virgilio, Allegoriae. Avec la collaboration de Cristina Noacco (= Textes littéraires du Moyen Âge; 71), Paris: Classiques Garnier 2022, 606 S., ISBN 978-2-406-13292-9, EUR 59,00
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Rezension von:
Molly Bronstein
Eberhard Karls Universität, Tübingen
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Ralf Lützelschwab
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Molly Bronstein: Rezension von: Jean-Marie Fritz: Ovide moralisés latins. Arnoul d'Orléans, Allegoriae. Jean de Garlande, Integumenta. Giovanni del Virgilio, Allegoriae. Avec la collaboration de Cristina Noacco, Paris: Classiques Garnier 2022, in: sehepunkte 24 (2024), Nr. 3 [15.03.2024], URL:

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Jean-Marie Fritz: Ovide moralisés latins

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Jean-Marie Fritz and Cristina Noacco's Ovide moralisés latins provides an accessible edition and translation of three essential Latin commentaries on the Metamorphoses: Arnulf of Orléans's Allegoriae, John of Garland's Integumenta Ovidii, and Giovanni del Virgilio's Allegorie librorum Ovidii Metamorphoseos. Having all three texts available in one volume will surely make this book an invaluable resource to scholars interested in Ovid's reception, the evolution of allegorical commentary, and the curriculum of medieval cathedral schools and universities. Researchers interested in these commentaries have previously been obliged to refer to Fausto Ghisalberti's editions, dating to the 1930s (though Valeria Cotza has more recently edited Giovanni del Virgilio's text). Pierre Bersuire's Ovidius moralizatus is not included in this volume; Cristina Noacco notes that this text merits its own separate treatment.

The introduction begins by outlining Ovid's key role - from the Renaissance of the twelfth century onward - as a mythographic source and school text and situates the importance of allegory as a means of justifying medieval audiences' interest in the pagan myths of the Metamorphoses. There is due acknowledgment of the fact that these commentaries represent just one key facet of the larger commentary tradition on Ovid (philological as well as allegorical interpretations culminating in the widely propagated and influential Vulgate Commentary on the Metamorphoses).

Biographical information about each author helps to contextualize each work and situate them in relation to each other: 1) Arnulf of Orléans, a grammarian at the cathedral school of Sainte Euverte d'Orléans, produced philological and grammatical commentaries on Ovid in addition to the Allegoriae, 2) John of Garland, an English grammarian trained at Oxford and Paris, was influenced in turn by Arnulf (as well as Alan of Lille and Matthew of Vendôme), and 3) Giovanni del Virgilio, a Bolognese schoolmaster and correspondent of Dante's, offered courses at the University of Bologna on Virgil, Statius, and Lucan as well as Ovid. There is appropriate emphasis on the commentators' accumulated influence upon each other; Arnulf of Orléans's Allegoriae is the major source of the other two works in the edition that succeed it (and would often be associated with the Integumenta in the manuscript tradition). This element of continuity also comes across nicely in footnotes on each translated text, which locate overlapping interpretations and borrowings between the three.

This edition also emphasizes the literary qualities of each text, acknowledging John of Garland and Giovanni del Virgilio as poets in their own right, and parsing out distinctions between each commentator's approach to allegory as well as their stylistic idiosyncrasies. Arnulf of Orléans pays special attention to the sin of pride and the battle between virtue and vice, providing exempla in bono and in malo on each side. He also varies his style a good deal, his interpretations becoming more concise as the Allegoriae unfold. John of Garland, meanwhile, makes a clear and active effort (in the tradition of inventio and imitatio promoted by Matthew of Vendôme) to channel the style of the classical author. Noacco characterizes the Integumenta as simultaneously concise and elliptical in a manner that is rather reminiscent of early Occitan poetry; John of Garland leans extensively on wordplay and paranomasia as well as alliteration and assonance. Giovanni del Virgilio's prosimetric text reflects his own role as an instructor in the art of versification. He borrows from both his predecessors, adapting and at times correcting Arnulf in the service of his own project's cohesiveness, and he on occasion borrows whole distichs from John of Garland.

Regarding the presentation of the three texts, the book's stated aim is to allow the reader to compare different manuscript witnesses and grasp the particularities of each work, and to encourage us to retrace the process of moralization as it evolved over the course of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries. There are clear improvements on Ghisalberti's methods. For instance, Ghisalberti relied on the highly lacunar Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Marc. Lat. XIV.222 (4007) as the base of his edition of Arnulf's Allegoriae, whereas the present edition prioritizes Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 7205 - which corresponds closely to the text's original form - corrected against five additional witnesses.

The translation of each text is eminently clear and in general adheres closely to the source text, relying on cognates and preserving word order whenever possible (occasionally a key phrase barely changes at all between source and target texts, such as Giovanni del Virgilio's description of the spider as "animal terrestre valde fragile" or in French, "animal terrestre, fort fragile" (406-7)). The translation evinces its own Ovidian flare occasionally, translating a remark on the metamorphosis of the mulberry ("mora" in Latin and "mûre" in French) accordingly: "alba nondum sunt matura, sed nigrescunt dum maturescunt" becomes "les mûres blanches ne sont pas encore mûres, mais noircissent en mûrissant" (130-1). The pun on "mûre" and "mûrissant" perhaps mirrors the paranomasia of the Metamorphoses more than Arnulf's interpretation - but the effect remains appropriate and succeeds in clarifying the text rather than distracting from it.

John of Garland's Integumenta presents its own particular challenges, its compactness and deliberate obscurity resisting easy or straightforward translation; it is generally unavoidable to amplify the text a good deal with necessary explicitations (to point to just a couple of representative examples, "clausa revelat" becomes "il révèle ce qui est enclos" (222-3) and "Conformes lapidi facit esse Medusa stupore" becomes "Méduse transforme les hommes en pierres par l'effroi qu'elle suscite" (254-5)). While this is a necessary evil and the result is a translation that does an impressive job of rendering the Integumenta with clarity and precision, one small difficulty is that the mise-en-page becomes a little bit awkward as necessarily lengthier verses of the French translation extend beyond the confines of their allotted lines. Due acknowledgement is paid to Ghisalberti and his best guesses when certain lines remain difficult to parse.

In addition to tracing the relationship between the three featured commentaries, this volume also explores the sources and ongoing influence of each text, for instance tracing etymologies derived from Fulgentius, Saint Isidore, or Pliny, or noting the subsequent legacy of a given interpretation in the Old French Ovide moralisé. (Occasionally acknowledging these intertextual links involves citing passages in untranslated Latin, which may present a minor frustration to any readers who are less confident as Latinists.)

In short, this volume provides highly accessible versions of all three texts and will surely provide a crucial point of reference for medievalists at work on the many faces of the medieval Ovid.

Molly Bronstein