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Translating Sodom

Translating Sodom

(p.25) 1 Translating Sodom
Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages
Robert Mills
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on a series of illuminated manuscripts known as the Bibles moralisées, which were produced for members of the French royal family between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Drawing attention to discourses of sodomy circulating in Paris around the time that the earliest Bibles moralisées were commissioned in the 1220s and 1230s, the chapter demonstrates how visual and verbal references to the practices of “sodomites” in the Bibles moralisées underscore the heterogeneous character of sodomy and the inconsistency with which the idea is applied specifically to homoerotic activity. Viewing the manuscripts through the lens of translation, the chapter also shows how sodomy is conceived via derivative structures: its visibility depends on its status as an imitation or bad copy of an originary ideal. In conclusion, the chapter considers how representations of homoerotic or “sodomitic” behavior in the Bibles moralisées were received by their audiences and patrons. What influence did these images have on the books’ owners? How did they shape medieval understandings of sodomy more generally?

Keywords:   Bible moralisée, biblical translation, sodomite, Sodom, Paris, illuminated manuscript, homoeroticism

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