Translatio Ganymedis: Reading the Sex Out of Ovid in Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature

Michael A. Johnson


This article suggests that Alan's complaint, often understood as targeting those guilty of the sin of sodomy, is in fact more interested in condemning the use of allegorical interpretation as a means of evacuating desire from pagan representations of disordered desire, such as in Ovid's Metamorphoses. For Alan, the abduction of Ganymede allegorizes the desire that propels figural interpretation, making the body of Ganymede ultimately another name for the erotic materiality of language in medieval letters. Based on a close reading of Alan's retelling of the Ganymede story, the paper argues that it is the erotic materiality of language that both drives medieval readers to allegorize sexual referents and makes this allegoresis ultimately impossible.

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