Ovide moralisé to be translated from Old French to English

The 14th-century text Ovide moralisé will be translated into English by Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, of Baylor University. She has received a $210,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to make this seminal work available to a broad audience in the humanities and popular readers for the first time.

“It is so rewarding and exciting to have the NEH to support our work in this area,” Murray said. “I’m hoping it is only the beginning of a long-term relationship with the NEH and other funded projects.”

The Ovide moralisé (or Moralized Ovid) occupies a strategic place in the intellectual tradition of Western Europe. Composed at the beginning of the 14th century in France, it offers readers a complete verse translation and adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (approximately 12,000 lines) in Old French, as well as more than 60,000 lines of philosophical and theological commentary.

Informed by Ovid, the Christian Bible and other Latin and vernacular authorities, from Plato to Chrétien de Troyes, the anonymous Franciscan friar who composed the Ovide Ovide moralisé guides his intended Christian readers on a redemptive quest. The work culminates in the promise of the Beatific Vision in which they will participate in Paradise, provided they purge themselves of the desires and misguided affections to which many of Ovid’s protagonists succumb.

Due to its length and complexity, the Ovide moralisé has not yet been translated into a modern, living language. The text is therefore only accessible to specialists trained in Old French. Numerous scholars agree that the Ovide moralisé profoundly shaped the reception of Ovidian myth by great authors like Dante, Bocaccio, Chaucer, Machaut, Gower and even Shakespeare.

“This is a major coup not only for the Honors College, but for Baylor University,” said Dr. Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor.

Moreover, as art historians Jean Seznec and Erwin Panofski have shown, medieval and Renaissance artists who depicted classical gods in their mythological contexts also were indebted to the legends and commentaries of the Ovide moralisé.

“This is exactly the kind of prestigious scholarship we want people to associate with Baylor University,” said Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities and director of Manuscript Research in Scripture and Tradition at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

The translation will be supported by a free access website, with selected illustrations, additional notes, a detailed index of subjects and themes, and representative tales from the print volumes.

Source: Baylor University

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