FRAL - Programme franco-allemand en SHS

Ovid in french. Genesis, transformation and reception of Ovide moralisé. – OEF


The aim was to study the medieval rewriting of Metamorphoses: this study went through the critical edition of the first book of the versified Ovide moralisé, starting with all the preserved manuscripts, with a critical apparatus and notes to reconstruct the path of the variants and propose a complete description of the states of the text, an exhaustive vocabulary, the publication of the Latin glosses of three of the manuscripts, and that of the illustrations of illuminated witnesses.

Study of a text in all its states (manuscripts, glosses, images)

The objective of the project was to study the acculturation of the Latin text of Ovid's Metamorphoses by the French Ovide moralisé, using twenty manuscripts which contain glosses, sometimes elaborate iconographic programs and, above all, are divided into several very different versions. Studying and editing the twenty French manuscripts and their glosses and iconographic programs helps to understand how the Latin text was understood in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance. Moreover, the study of this corpus also makes the transformation of this cultural appropriation emerge «in house«, i. e. in the French tradition, whose manuscripts preserve the remanants.<br />Although the project had several components that fit together, it is in essence a work that compares two texts, one Latin, the other French, and comments on all the specifics that this medieval understanding presents. It is certainly a study on a translation , conducted on all manuscripts of a work which, with its 72,000 lines, is the longest text the French Middle Ages left us, reporting all that translation brings to the lexical, ideological, religious, in short : cultural field. But it goes without saying that this investigation exceeds, by far, the field of language as it also shows how the French text has been understood - or not - by its French readers struggling with a subject, more than a language, that was foreign to them. This is a broad philological investigation proposed by the project, an investigation on the culture of an era, as seen through a text.The work has been carried out on Book I, and the volume which accounts for this work will impendingly be handed over to the publisher, the «Société des Anciens Textes Français«.

The editors were able to make progress in the knowledge of the text thanks to their careful examination of the twenty witnesses (whose stemma they were able to refine), the grouping of the manuscripts by type of illustrations corroborated the construction of the stemma, which is important for the reconstitution of the Variants: these are the aspects that could best describe the life of this text.
But to understand the process that leads Metamorphoses to their version (s) in the Romance language, it has proved essential to find the sources of the author. For the «translation of fables« part, the adapter indicates that he was working from a Metamorphoses manuscript whose margins were covered with glosses. One of the main contributions of the Oef project will be the transcription of the glosses of the manuscript of the Vat Metamorphoses. Lat. 1479, which represents a witness quite similar to that used by the author of the moralized Ovid.
For the allegories, the marginal glosses in Latin of three of the moralized Ovid manuscripts identify in the margins many scriptural sources. The team was enriched by a specialist in late Latin texts, who deciphered and edited all the Latin glosses of Book I in the three manuscripts.
The glossary was intended to be exhaustive: the lexicographical component was one of the major justifications for France-Germany collaboration, since the ATILF could work with the DEAF (Electronic Dictionary of the Old French) team. The specialists in lexicology were thus able to put the text (and its variants) at the service of a complete presentation of the vocabulary of the Middle French at the beginning of the XIVth century. The digitization and encoding of the text by an ATILF design engineer allows it to be used in the context of online DMF.

In the end, after forty-eight months of this collective work, the team is proud of the results obtained: it is about to deposit with the publisher (SATF), the first volume of a critical edition A text that is reconstituted from all the preserved manuscripts, accompanied by a very detailed critical apparatus that delivers all the variants (we have excluded only the variants which touch altered passages in the single family Z, which constitutes a separate version), philological notes which reconstitute the path of the variants according to the links between the different witnesses (according to the stemma constituted) and a glossary that aims to enrich the knowledge of the lexicon of the Middle French The text, as has been said, is the subject of a computerized treatment to be deposited on the basis of DMF and thus enrich the corpus on which the vocabulary presented in this dictio Nary); But also that of illustrations, images, ornate initials, rubrics, in tables that explain and situate them, and whose realization constituted a real technical challenge (the acquisition of reproductions in an excellent resolution, «clipping« images , The most succinct and explicit description possible of the position and function of these images); And finally the edition of the Latin glosses of the three manuscripts which contain them.
In addition to this volume, the list of works provided in the appendix will show the productivity of the members of the team during the period 2013-2017, the productivity generated by the Oef project. Particularly noteworthy is the publication of two other works: a collection of studies on illustrations and the collection of the proceedings of the international symposium held in Lyon in April 2016.

TThe forty-eight months during which the project benefited from the assistance of the ANR and the DFG only allowed the editing of the first book of the moralized Ovide, but its realization was an encouraging success: the teams The different specialists learned how to work together, the protocols for inputting and working were elaborated and new partnerships were forged, with Switzerland and Belgium where the publishing of other books was possible. Be awarded to fellows. It is therefore a safe bet that everyone will want to continue and complete the whole project.
For the important thing is that the original objective, that of studying the reception of the Metamorphoses in this great text of the beginning of the fourteenth century, with all its variants, its prose and the first impressions of this prose, that of better understanding The life of a text in the Middle Ages, is reached thanks to the works around this first book. The impact is therefore historical as well as literary, and art historians, linguists (lexicologists) will be able to benefit from the contributions of this research.
There is still a lot of work, but without the help of the ANR and the DFG, the team would never have arrived at this result, the realization of this first so rich and innovative work that will give it 'Desire to continue. The work has highlighted this important text to the public through contacts with the research community and with libraries, now aware of the importance of the witness (s) they retain and wishing to make these witnesses known at the most Wide possible audience. The proof of this is the will of the conservator of the old funds of the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon to organize a public lecture on the Bm Lyon 742, one of the most richly illuminated witnesses, and to have our team Folio on this manuscript, like the sheetmaker created for Rouen Bm O.4.

1/ Conferences, public présentations : promotion of research work
. Y. Greub, Mattia Cavagna et Massimiliano Gaggero, « La tradition manuscrite de l’Ovide moralisé. Prolégomènes à une nouvelle édition», Romania 132 (2014), 176-213.
. Y. Greub, “Etudier le Lexique I” / T. Städtler, “Etudier le Lexique II” / R. Trachsler, “Présentation du projet Ovide Moralisé”, International Exploratory Workshop. Mapping Textual Traditions in the French Middle Ages. Guiron-Aspremont-Ovide moralisé”, Zürich (CH), Universität Zürich, 2.-4. Dezember 2014.
. I. Salvo, « Lecture et traduction d’Ovide en Espagne et en France (XIIIe et XIVe) », conférence plénière, organisée par Mónica Castillo Lluch, Université de Lausanne, 1er mai 2015.
. M. Possamai, « L’Ovide moralisé comme réécriture des Métamorphoses d’Ovide : l’exemple de la légende de Saturne », journée d’études « Réécritures médiévales : domaine juridique, scientifique, religieux, littéraire », Strasbourg, 23 janvier 2015.
. M. Possamai, M. Besseyre, V. Rouchon, Irene Salvo et Prunelle Deleville, Présentation du travail réalisé dans le cadre du projet Oef au Séminaire des médiévistes du CIHAM (UMR 5948, CNRS), Lyon, 14 avril 2016.
. M. Possamai, « Étude de cas : le portrait d’Envie dans l’Ovide moralisé en vers (II, 3898-4075) : édition critique, apparat, notes philologiques, glossaire, commentaire », Zurich, séminaire de R. Trachsler, 18 mai 2016.

2/ Publications
• L’Ovide moralisé illustré, éd. M. Possamai-Pérez et M. Besseyre, CRMH n° 30, Paris, Garnier, 2016.
• Ovidius explanatus. Traduire et commenter les Métamorphoses au Moyen Âge, éd. S. Biancardi, P. Deleville, F. Montorsi, M. Possamai, to be published at Garnier, dans la collection Ovidiana.
• Édition critique du livre I de l’Ovide moralisé à partir de tous les manuscrits conservés, texte, apparat critique, notes philologiques et codicologiques, glossaire, édition des images et des gloses latines, par l’équipe Oef, dir. R. Trachsler, to be published at the SATF.

The aim of the present project is to study the process of acculturation to which the Latin text of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is subjected, from the 14th century onwards, in the French Ovide moralisé. The investigation begins with the manuscripts of the Ovide moralisé, which contain glosses and sometimes elaborate iconographic schemes, and, above all, branch into several very different versions. A study of the French manuscripts, as well as of subsequent prose and printed versions of the text, enables us to see how the Latin text was understood in the French Middle Ages. Through this study it becomes clear that the very feature which was most distinctive of the text in the medieval period – namely the “moralisations” which cause the text to expand into 72000 lines of octosyllablic couplets – sometimes becomes an obstacle to its diffusion. Some manuscripts of the Ovide moralisé omit the moralisations and so become simple translations of the Metamorphoses, but they nonetheless help us to see how the Latin text was assimilated into the Christian Middle Ages. Throughout the process of translation, French scribes could find themselves confronted with a text which had become unfamiliar to them. Today, the manuscripts bear the signs of this lack of understanding, and these sometimes unconscious modifications are especially telling of the transition from one culture to another.
Through the collaboration of art historians, lexicologists, and specialists in French and Latin literature, we shall through this project gain an understanding of the life cycle of a text which allowed one of the founding works of western culture to pass from the Classical period to the Middle Ages and then the Renaissance, from Latin to French, from a clerical milieu to a lay readership, from verse to prose, and from manuscripts to printed form. The examination of the language, iconography, glosses and commentaries contained by documents which are still largely unexplored will yield precise studies which will have an importance extending beyond the domain of the Ovide moralisé, for they will shed light on the assimilation of a culture which is at once quite different and yet remarkably similar.
Atop this concrete goal there is also a further strategic research objective. Through this bi-national project – which in fact is already European – we shall strive to expand the borders of medieval literary study to encompass a new approach towards the “pre-modern book”, in which specialists in related disciplines can enter into dialogue.

Project coordinator

Madame Marylène POSSAMAI (Centre d'histoire, d'archéologie, de littérature des mondes chrétiens et musulmans médiévaux) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Univ. Göttingen Université Georg-August Göttingen Séminaire de Philologie romane
ATILF Analyse et Traitement Informatique de la Langue Française
DEAF Université de Heidelberg, Dictionnaire étymologique de l'ancien français
CIHAM Centre d'histoire, d'archéologie, de littérature des mondes chrétiens et musulmans médiévaux

Help of the ANR 293,280 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2013 - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter