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Prof. Coulson's latest book announced by Harvard University Press

January 1, 2024

Prof. Coulson's latest book announced by Harvard University Press

Picture of the book cover for The Moralized Ovid

The Moralized Ovid

By Pierre Bersuire

Edited and translated by Frank T. Coulson and Justin Haynes

An influential medieval allegorical interpretation of the Metamorphoses that uncovers the hidden moral truths of Ovid’s stories, translated into English for the first time.

Written in about 1340 in Avignon by the Benedictine preacher Pierre Bersuire, The Moralized Ovid—commonly referred to by its Latin title, Ovidius moralizatus, to distinguish it from the anonymous French vernacular Ovide moralisé—was arguably the most influential interpretation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the High Middle Ages. It circulated widely in manuscript form and was frequently printed during the Renaissance. Originally intended as a sourcebook of exempla for preachers’ sermons, The Moralized Ovid provides not only a window into the uses of classical literature in the fourteenth century but also amazingly vivid details of daily life in the Middle Ages across all strata of society. 

The work begins with a detailed description of the Greco-Roman gods, inspired in part by Bersuire’s friend and fellow proponent of classical poetry, Francesco Petrarch. It then retells selected major myths from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, each followed by numerous allegorical interpretations that draw from biblical stories, contemporary events, and the natural world.

This edition presents the first full English translation alongside an authoritative Latin text.