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Eisner, Martin, and Marc Schachter. “Libido Sciendi- Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality.” PMLA 124 (2009)- 817-37

Eisner, Martin, and Marc Schachter. “Libido Sciendi- Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality.” PMLA 124 (2009)- 817-37

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Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality.
Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality.

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Libido Sciendi: Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality
martin g. eisner and marc d. schachter

Martin G. Eisner is Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University. He is completing a book manuscript entitled “The Poetics of Mediation: Boccaccio and the Cultivation of Italian Literature in the Age of Manual Reproduction,” which explores Boccaccio’s dedication to preserving and promoting the vernacular works of Dante, Petrarch, and Cavalcanti, as materialized in an autograph manuscript, now Chigi L. V. 176 in the Vatican Library. MARC D. SCHAChTER is author of Voluntary Servitude and the Erotics of Friendship: From Classical Antiquity to Early Modern France (Ashgate, 2008). Currently a fellow at Villa I Tatti, Harvard University’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, he is finishing a book manuscript entitled “The Uses of Desire” and pursuing further research on Apuleius.

puleius’s story of a miller (pistor) who catches his wife at home with her young paramour and its reimagining by Boccaccio have figured prominently in an ongoing debate about how to study the history of sexuality. Whether the stories have been seen as demonstrating historical change in the relation between sex acts and social identities or used to disrupt the project of scripting a normative history of social types, they have been treated as discrete and essentially stable documents.1 A woodcut from a 1519 edition of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Italian translation of The Golden Ass, however, shows that these tales had been combined long before their juxtaposition by modern scholars, since its conjunction of a hanged man and three figures in bed conflates the two versions (fig. 1).2 Apuleius’s miller does facetiously propose a three-­ way, but it never takes place. Instead, he locks his wife in another room, rapes her would-­ be lover, and, after a series of magical machinations instigated by his estranged wife, hangs himself several days later. Boccaccio’s version in the Decameron, on the other hand, fulfills the promise of the ménage à trois but omits the hanging. The woodcut thus combines these mutually exclusive resolutions to the love triangle and suggests how instead of predictably representing a distinct historical moment Boccaccio’s retelling has at times interfered in the reception of its own source.3 Other, earlier readers found this image to be troubling, in one instance altering the woodblock from the 1519 edition to illustrate a later translation (fig. 2) and in another crossing out the uppermost figure in the bed.4 While it is impossible to determine if these material witnesses from the past attest to objections about the sexual content of the picture or about the way it does not correspond to its textual source, they do record the practices of particularly ­ active

[  © 2009 by the moder n language association of america  ]



Libido Sciendi: Apuleius, Boccaccio, and the Study of the History of Sexuality

[  P M L A

Fig. 1
Woodcut from Apuleius, Apulegio, 1519, sig. N4v. By permission of the Folger ­Shakespeare Library.

Fig. 2
Woodcut from Apuleius, L’asino d’oro 262. By permission of the ­Folger ­Shakespeare Library.

 3). Hermeneutic Desire in The Golden Ass The 1519 Italian image mentioned above appears to have influenced a woodcut illustrating the miller’s tale made for a 1553 French translation of The Golden Ass (fig.3   ] Martin G. On the right. identities. on themselves and on others. and interpretation in the novella collection. a hermeneutics of desire. by drawing on Foucault’s underappreciated reflections in the second and third volumes of his History of Sexuality. To respond in part to Foucault’s question. Whereas David Halperin acknowledges downplaying the literary sophistication of The Golden Ass and the Decameron because “the point [he] wish[es] to make is a historical one” (38). we draw on para­ textual materials and manuscript variants to explore how attention to the variability of these documents could complicate the questions of historical identity and temporality that are central to studying the history of sexuality. we ask how Apuleius’s and Boccaccio’s literary and philosophical investigations into desire. Schachter 819  readers. the once-­ human Lucius is no mere observer. sexuality. of course. “[w]hat were the games of truth by which [they] came to see themselves as desiring individuals?” (7). as the woodcut suggests. His insatiable . thereby rendering problematic attempts to access contemporary social norms through the novel. which Halperin inaugurated and the other participants in the debate extended. where the earlier Italian illustration depicts a threesome. The first section explores how The Golden Ass stages interpretive conundrums that seem to anticipate Foucault’s concerns with games of truth and the production of knowledge. addresses textual history. the French version offers a different scene à trois that actually does take place in the text: Lucius revealing to the miller the presence of a boy hidden under a tub. focusing on a textual crux to show how scholars have sought to fix the meaning of the text precisely where Boccaccio rendered it ambiguous and then raising larger questions about the roles of desire. On the left hangs the miller. this essay contributes to the discussion of Foucault’s place in such a history. this article not only emphasizes how a literary work “increases the difficulty of identifying normative discourse” (Freccero 46) but also. the analyses of Apuleius and Boccaccio that follow investigate how both authors use sex to eroticize interpretation and generate epistemological uncertainty.1 2 4 . its narrator is an ass. historical) might contribute to a history of sexuality not tied to a history of social types. but certainly not the exclusive domain” (Use   5). a hermeneutics of which their sexual behavior was doubtless the occasion.5 Some modern scholars have similarly adapted these stories to fit their critical agendas in ways that foreclose the textual and sexual possibilities that this essay aims to explore. now with an audience. Going beyond the artificially stabilized modern critical edition. At the same time.6 While Mikhail Bakhtin invokes this scene in Apuleius’s novel when he notes in “Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel” that “the position of an ass is a particularly convenient one for observing the secrets of everyday life” (122). and epistemology (themselves. taking up Michel Foucault’s exhortation to explore the archives. or acts. In the light of Foucault’s extension of his project to include a genealogy of the desiring subject reaching back to antiquity. If according to the preface to volume 2 his original project had been an inquiry into “how individuals were led to practice. The translation illustrated by the altered woodblock adds the further complication of omitting the rape scene altogether. interpretation. in the second and third volumes Foucault turned to antiquity and focused on a new question: before human beings became subjects of sexuality. The second turns to the Decameron. This woodcut puts into relief a significant detail that has been largely overlooked by participants in the history-­ of-­ sexuality debate— for most of the novel. Eisner and Marc D.

modified]). which Lucius has recently overheard. 15 [trans. 9. multiscium reddidit” ‘he made me better informed. 5. if anything. While recounting the miller’s supernatural death. the extradiegetic. curiosity (curiositas) as a biped is.” games that should give pause to the modern historian of sexuality eager to find the truth of sex in the novel. In other words.10 At the conclusion to the fabula. bk. we delineate in the following pages how The Golden Ass provokes. sec. . Winkler maintains that shifts in location invite the reader to engage in the “hermeneutic entertainment” to be found in unraveling the novel’s interpretive enigmas (11). sec. But whereas Psyche . he “cuius et faciem videre cupieba[t] ex summo studio” ‘longed with the greatest zeal to see his face’ (2: 152–53. Lucius observes that the “lector scrupulosus” ‘careful reader’ may wonder how he could have known the details of the hanging (2: 152–53. the story of the miller and his amorous wife frames two other accounts of adulterous women and is itself framed by passages that impeach the reliability of its narrator. frustrates. Lucius’s libido sciendi also figures prominently near the outset of the miller’s story when the ass overhears that the miller’s wife has taken a young lover. Metamorphose 532. his transformation into an ass occurs after he seduces the servant Photis to gain access to the secrets of the witch Pamphile.8 Epistemological uncertainty and hermeneutic desire are ostentatiously highlighted in a series of nested adultery tales Lucius recounts and refers to collectively as a “fabula” (2: 150–51. Drawing on Winkler’s insight. even less restrained when he is a quadruped. sec. With its emphasis on the ass’s subjectivity and questionable reliability as a narrator.820  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. ­ Courtesy of the ­Newberry Library.9 In this fabula. and this desire is frequently linked to sex—for example. secs. sec.11 This longing evokes Psyche’s “sacrilega curiositate” ‘sacrilegious curiosity’ to see her mysterious husband in the tale of Cupid and Psyche (1: 260–61. 9. both through its narration of hermeneutic desire in the novel’s characters and through the implantation of the will to know in its readers. the fabula’s frame suggests that the tales are a difficult place to mine for evidence of social norms. bk. Boccaccio. . the less prudens Lucius again explicitly calls attention to the question of his reliability. 14). John Winkler argues that The Golden Ass shows how as an interpreter’s “location shifts . bk. modified]). “authorial” Lucius proclaims his gratitude to the ass he was because “etsi minus prudentem. Overcome with curiosity about this youth. and sometimes parodies libido sci­ endi. In a now classic narratological interpretation of the novel. 9. bk. 3 Woodcut from Apuleius. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A Fig. In a rare retrospective moment. 13–14 [trans. Apuleius conspicuously portrays—and repeatedly interpellates the reader within—ludic “games of truth.7 Indeed. the embedded author incites the desire to know the truth about the details recounted in the fabula while provoking uncertainty about them. 6). Lucius’s desire for knowledge is one of the chief motivating factors in the novel and one of its thematic preoccupations. just before introducing the miller and his wife. 30). 9. bk. or the desire to know. conviction vanishes” (320). By indicting his perspicacity just before the fabula and questioning his trustworthiness at its end. if less sensible’ (2: 150–51.

26). 22). if with near catastrophic consequences. DeFilippo 490–91). and vigorous’ (2: 154–55. might be discovered. modified]). suggesting retroactively how Lucius/​ Apuleius seeks to interpellate his audience into the novel’s erotic economy from the outset. bk. bk. the wife’s desire for gossip is once again ignited. In either case. sec. 9. Instead. secs. and the old woman agrees to deliver Philesitherus to her. she skillfully incites the wife’s desire both for gossip about Phi­ le­ si­ the­ rus’s exploits during an affair with one of her classmates and for Philesitherus himself (2: 154–67. as illustrated in the French ­ woodcut. 1. Given that she chastises the wife for having taken a lover without her advice (2: 154–55. 9. The old woman sings the praise of one Philesitherus. revealing him for all to see’ (2: 174–75. bk. with my enormous ears I could hear everything very easily. The discussion of Lucius’s ears at the beginning of his fabula also resonates with the invocation of the reading (or listening) audience’s own ears in the novel’s prologue (1: 2–3. she cajoles her husband into recounting the details of the cena interrupta. who. bk. 9. The wife’s interest is piqued. bk. 9. however. 1). Lucius is not the only character ruled by an unmanageable desire for sex and knowledge. As Jonathan Walters and Halperin both note. one offered by his asinine body: “isto tamen vel unico solacio aerumnabilis deformitatis meae recreabar. 16). sec. 9. sec. and then demonstrates his desirability by recounting a long tale about his clever cuckolding of a certain Barbarus. 16). unlike the wife’s current lover. 23 [trans. sec. modified]). . bk. The occasion of his nightly watering provides the willful and vindictive Lucius an opportunity to step on Philesitherus’s fingers. This advantage of his new form recalls Lucius’s earlier gratitude for his augmented genitalia (1: 170–71. handsome. or sexual desire and the desire for narrative. “[N]‌ oscendae rei cupiens” ‘Desiring to know about the affair’ (2: 170–71. 3. or perhaps she is just doing a good job selling her ware. depulso tegmine cunctis palam facere” ‘I kept thinking . qui ad instar testudinis alveum succubabat. bk. Eisner and Marc D. 9. is “adulescens et formosus et liberalis et strenuus” ‘young. he settles for another kind of satisfaction. The parallel between his enlarged phallus and enormous ears underscores the link between sex and listening to stories. We would add that the discrepancy between what the old woman promises and the youth who appears invites the reader’s scrutiny and reveals the wife’s friend to be an unreliable narrator— or a sly one. that Apuleius develops in the novel (Shumate 223. bk. hiding under a tub. this passage emphasizes the boy’s youth and desirability to men. even displacing her fear that Philesitherus. 24). quod auribus grandissimis praeditus cuncta longule etiam” ‘I was at least uplifted by this one consolation in my painful deformity: namely. is not a bold lover but a mere youth. if there were any way I could help my master by uncovering and exposing her deceits. “adhuc lubrico genarum splendore conspicuus. illumque. 15 [trans. the old woman may misrepresent the boy in order to get revenge. Lucius does not manage to quench his ocular desire. still attracting male lovers himself’ (2: 168–69. sec.1 2 4 . Lucius’s own subjectivity once more comes to the fore when he expresses his desire to intervene in the scene he has been observing: “deliberabam si quo modo possem detectis ac revelatis fraudibus auxilium meo perhibere domino. What appears. sec. . sec. 9. sec. . Lucius is able to overhear the conversation between the miller’s wife and an old woman encouraging her to find a new lover. adhuc adulteros ipse delectans” ‘still conspicuous for the smooth brightness of his cheeks. instead of trying to find a way to help the boy escape. even at considerable distance’ (2: 152–55. and dislodge the cover from that man who was lying under the vat like a tortoise. Schachter 821  gets to see Cupid.3   ] Martin G. 16–22). bk. engaging. When the miller returns home unexpectedly from an interrupted dinner with his friend the fuller.12 Because of his aural endowment.

In his best-­ selling and often-­ reprinted 1500 commentary on the novel. Yet embedded in his speech lurks a series of obscene allusions that offer a different insight into his personality. as Lucius puts it. points both to his hypocrisy and to the text’s ludic relation to revelation. the miller says to the boy. (2: 176–77.14 Nonetheless. 9. In this regard. rather than pursue the boy on capital charges for adultery.15 Lucius’s representation of the miller and of the miller’s self-­ presentation poses a similar challenge. self-­ k nowledge. Before his transformation. in accordance with the teachings of the wise. 9. nec agresti morum squalore praeditus” ‘You have nothing to fear from me. I have always lived in such harmony with my spouse that. While Bakhtin emphasizes that Lucius is the forerunner of the servants and other “third man” figures in later novels who are “the most privileged witnesses to private life” (124–25). 26–27). despite being a horny ass constantly ruled by his desires. communi dividundo formula dimicabo. Lucius’s partisan nature is curious. I will institute a suit to share common assets. 9. Nam et ipse sem­ p er cum mea coniuge tam concorditer vixi ut ex secta prudentium eadem nobis am­ bo­ bus placerent. and the ass will later have sex with a married woman. fili. 27). if it ever took place. to suggest that his own reaction will be urbane and moderate. bk. as a “tortoise”? Indeed.” the miller continues to imply that he will respond with equanimity and reason. metuas. there are numerous parallels between the boy and the ass that suggest Philesitherus is a more natural object of identification. the ass turns out to be far from an ideal witness. through which these norms have been filtered. we both have the same tastes. whose story he recounts. son. the details of Lucius’s narration index the ass’s subjectivity. Why should Lucius have empathy for the miller rather than for the boy who also finds himself trapped in animal form. “conspectui profano redditus scaenam propudiosae mulieris patefecit” ‘his appearance disclosed to the eyes of the uninstructed world the secret life of the shameless hussy’ (2: 174–75. 27) With his legalistic sophistry and invocation of “the teachings of the wise. . Rather than offer unmediated access to social norms. The word “barbarus” evokes the previous story of Barbarus and can be read as an authorial wink at the reader or as another textual conundrum. Lucius’s meddlesome curiositas leads him to take pleasure in the exercise of authority and in the execution of the law as long as he is not the one being punished. That Lucius should represent himself as a voice of prudence and moral comportment who reveals mysteries to the world. or compassion. he is like his own representation of the miller’s wife. instead of generating insight. Philippus Beroaldus noted of dividundo (“to share or divide”). ut sine ulla controversia vel dissensione tribus no­ bis in uno conveniat lectulo. Non sum barbarus. “Nihil triste de me tibi. Lucius was young and beautiful like Philesitherus. The miller goes on to say that. bk. secs. and.822  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. Determining the complex relation of Lucius’s narration to the social and the normative would thus require careful adjudication. (We only have the old woman’s word for it. then. bk. You see. the miller does contrast his character with that of the fuller. sec. the text prefigures on Lucius’s body the boy’s implied anal rape.) In any case. Boccaccio. After the ass has revealed Philesitherus.13 In books 7 and 8. another cuckold. and I do not share the boorishness of rustic morality’ (2: 176–77. since nothing in the fabula suggests that the miller knows of the event. who eagerly imagines the punishment her adulterous neighbor merits despite the fact that she is guilty of the same crime. I am not barbarous. contending that without controversy or dissension we three should enter into contract in the matter of one bed. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A The boy then flings off the tub. sec. not only partisan but participatory.

Beroaldus. an approach that contravenes the novel’s ostentatious production of epistemic uncertainty. if cruel. bk. 1). for example. bk. lingers on the husband’s bogus suggestion. sec. . . sec. 9. .]). Instead of looking for representative subjects of sex and gender in The Golden Ass. writing of the expression “partario tractabo” ‘I will split’ (2: 176. this entire incident tells us nothing unusual about the character of the miller. spread with preposterous and unspeakable desire’ (209r [our trans. 9. In his commentary on The Golden Ass . “Apuleius’s text makes ­ no incriminating association between the [miller’s] sexual enjoyment of the adulterous youth and the [miller’s] character. something any “normal” GrecoRoman man might do. may. Unlike the comportment of Pietro. “apprime modestus” ‘extremely temperate’ (2: 150–51. bk. sec.’ which has excited many readers’ desires to know what might have happened in that bed. bed. or sexual disposition. the miller himself perverts the implications of the law he invokes when he locks his wife in a separate room and leads “ad torum nolentem puerum” ‘the unwilling boy to bed’ (2: 178. to caress your ears into approval with a pretty whisper’ (1: 2–3. 14). . 28). . It refers to buggers and to men who sleep with boys.1 2 4 . desire. boys whose buttocks are. According to Walters and Hal­ pe­ rin. knowledge. .]): “ut scilicet dimidius sit uxoris ex membris anterioribus / dimidius sit ipsius .16 Moreover. that “potest videri subesse huic verbo obscenus intellectus. The miller’s actions are hardly those of a man who was.” he may show himself to be not so much an upstanding and cultured. . 28 [our trans. the novel begins by announcing its narrator’s desire to seduce the reader: “ego . bk. Historians of sexuality could.) Take the Apuleian husband’s evocative but unfulfilled proposal of “tribus nobis in uno . less determined by the horizon of modern sexuality.3   ] Martin G. Perhaps more provocative than this constant problematization of perspective is the novel’s related meditation on the desire for knowledge. however. the miller’s counterpart in the Decameron. 1. and truth—in a project similar to that proposed by Foucault at the outset of the second volume of his History of Sexuality—and perhaps reflect on their own desire to make meaning out of them? After all. . 9. .18 The complex characterization of the miller exemplifies what the fabula as a whole suggests about Lucius’s untrustworthiness as a witness and relates to The Golden Ass’s overarching concern with epistemic uncertainty.17 Moreover. ad pedicones refertur: & puerorum concubitores: quorum in libidine propostera & infanda nates quasi dividuntur” ‘an obscene meaning can be seen under this word. The main lineaments of this argument conform to what has come to be the dominant view of ancient Roman masculinity and “sexuality” (Williams. lectulo” ‘the three of us in one . in Lucius’s words. . 244). individual as a hypocrite whose self-­ importance is far from modest (another meaning o ­ f ­ modestus). as it were. 9. how might historians of sexuality use the novel’s inquiry into libido sciendi to historicize the relations among sex. . (Other possibilities will be suggested in the conclusion. masculinity. . the sweet revenge the miller will take on the boy is of no particular significance. Eisner and Marc D. Schachter 823  used by the miller to describe the sharing of the boy. for example. auresque tuas benivolas lepido susurro permulceam” ‘I would like . when the miller implicitly criticizes the fuller by claiming not to be “barbarous” and not to have “rustic morality.” remarks Hal­ pe­ rin (41). attend to the responses the novel has elicited from its readers. bk. sec. . who knew Boccaccio’s version of the story. Attention to other elements in the representation of the miller. offer a more incriminating portrait. Gleason).]) before enjoying “gratissima corruptarum nuptiarum vindicata” ‘the most gratifying revenge for his ruined marriage’ (2: 178–79. The editors of the Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius remind us that taking pleasure in revenge could be considered the comportment of “indocti” ‘fools’ (Hijmans et al. sec. 27 [our trans. .

” Here a passive concubine. reveals an intriguing variant that appears to show Boccaccio revising Apuleius from within. too. he would be both “screwee” and “screwer. is anything but “scandalously witty. it overlooks. Giovanni Morlini will rewrite the scene in yet more pornographic detail. 9. is fascinated by the configuration of desire in that bed. there a studly bugger’ (209r [our trans. he seems to have had no other way of motivating the scandalously witty conclusion of the tale he had inherited from Apuleius” (41). including the one that Boccaccio first read. furthermore. We will suggest below that Boccaccio’s representation of Pietro. Boccaccio. bk. in some cases. sufficed to lift the oppressive weight of adversity and furnish consolation’ (2: 1416. it overlooks Boccaccio’s key role not only in the reception of this Apuleian story but also in the recovery and redeployment of Apuleius’s works more generally. 14. sec. in part by incorporating elements of Beroaldus’s explication of it as well as phrases drawn from Lucius’s sexual escapades with Photis in book 3. but he is less interested in the mechanics of the suggested or actual intercourse—which. as the woodcut in figure 1 shows. the centrality of Apuleius to Boccaccio’s own literary and philosophical projects. day 5. also draw the attention of contemporary scholars—than in the epistemological questions they raise. Hinc paticus concubinus: inde masculus subactor” ‘obviously so that the front parts would be for the wife and the rear parts for him. our trans. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A ex membris posterioribus.22 This mention of Apuleius not only shows his prominent place in Boccaccio’s reflection on the functions of literature but also justifies in part the Decameron itself. And in this way.20 While the idea that Boccaccio was simply updating Apuleius’s story may be convenient for an analysis that aims to track historical change through literary adaptations. de- . Ambiguous Revision and Suspended Judgment in the Decameron. which also has a consolatory purpose. ch. as well.23 The Golden Ass is thus far more than a source of stories for Boccaccio to update in the Decameron.]). novella 10. for example. Later in the sixteenth century. 9 [our trans. 14. Halperin suggests that “[i]n order to update Apu­ lei­ us’s plot it seems to have been necessary for Boc­ cac­ cio to posit a sodomitical disposition or inclination on the husband’s part. ch.21 In the Ge­ ne­ a­ lo­ g ie deorum gentilium .). Apuleius’s ending. Where most early manuscripts.” where the “author” writes that the collection is intended “a consolazion” ‘for the consolation’ of ladies (2: 1254. bk. was not so much constrained by the medieval Florentine’s limited options for making sense of or “modernizing” his Apuleian source as it was motivated by thematic and narratological concerns germane to the Decameron. as we shall see. the husband in his version of the tale. concluding as it does with a hanging. which the next section of this essay explores. Boccaccio uses the telling of the story of Cupid and Psyche in The Golden Ass to show that “[f]a­ bu­ lis laborantibus sub pondere adversantis fortune non nunquam solamen inpensum est” ‘fiction has. announced in the first line of its proem (1: 5. & ita medius inter virum uxoremque discurrens hinc stupratus erit inde stuprator. our trans. Furthermore.): “Umana cosa è l’aver compassione degli afflitti” ‘it is a human trait to have compassion for the afflicted’ and reinforced in its “Conclusione dell’Autore. rushing back and forth between the man and the wife.19 Boccaccio.]).824  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. Day 5.” Hal­ pe­ rin’s conflation of the two endings dem- onstrates once again how the risqué conclusion of Boccaccio’s version has influenced the reception and reading of its Apuleian source. Novella 10 In comparing Apuleius’s story of the miller and the Decameron. 13 [Boc­ caccio 50]) as part of his contention that “com­ po­ suisse fabulas apparet utile potius quam dam­ no­ sum” ‘it is rather more useful than damnable to compose stories’ (Genealogie 2: 1410. An investigation of Boccaccio’s own transcription of The Golden Ass.

also points to a particularly vexed Apuleius. Eisner and Marc D. is the point of the story’s punchline: “On the following morning the youth was escorted back to the public square not altogether certain which he had the more been that night. That. 1350. The second ca’s standard critical edition. it invites a reconsideration of the ambiguous representation of the boy’s experiences in Boccaccio’s version of the story. 4) has “volentem” ‘willing’ in place of “nolentem” ‘unwilling’ (Opera. By permission of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali. Halperin’s argument that “the husband in Boccaccio plays a sexually insertive role in intercourse with his wife’s lover” preserves what they call “normative distinctions” that they do not find in Boccaccio’s Italian (1614). 54. or consciously (or unconsciously) rewriting it when he has the boy follow the miller willingly. wife to Pietro or husband to Pietro’s wife.  (40–41) Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon question Halperin’s interpretation and contest his claim to know exactly what the boy did in the bed. 51v. 1350. McWilliam’s translation. Opera. reflected in their choice of Excerpt from translation. which Goldberg line contains the relevant variant. Schachter 825  scribe the miller leading the boy to bed with the same words found in modern editions of the text. c. . Although this variant is unacknowledged in modern critical editions of the work. In any case. It begins (with abbreviations expanded). c. Further reproduction prohibited. H. “deducebat ad torum nolentem pu­ e­ rum” ‘he led the unwilling boy to bed.3   ] Martin G. in which the boy is “not exactly certain with which of the pair he had spent the greater part of the night” (440). after all.” Firenze. Plut. Halperin quotes the passage (in the translation by Charles Singleton) and interprets it in a manner similar to Beroaldus’s imagining of the proposed threesome in Apuleius: [T]he husband in Boccaccio plays a sexually insertive role in intercourse with the wife’s lover.c. the difference between Hal­ pe­ rin’s interpretation and Goldberg and Fig. the variant does insinuate into the original the much less vindictive spirit of Boccaccio’s retelling of the story also found in illustrations of The Golden Ass that depict the Boccaccian ménage à trois that does not take place in Apuleius’s text. misreading his exemplar. G.25 Vittore Bran.24 While translations can certainly reflect ideological biases. moment in the original text.32. 4 Menon’s reading. Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. For Goldberg and Menon. It is impossible to know whether Boccaccio is incorporating a reading from a now lost text. is preferable because it does not specify what any of the participants were doing and focuses instead on the indeterminate relations between the participants. This concern with relationality rather than roles or identities is consonant with Goldberg and Menon’s resistance to arguments that depend on ossified and impoverished sexual categories such as inserter and insertee. obviously. In their view.’ Boc­ cac­ cio’s autograph copy (fig. wife or husband”—meaning. In his essay. a representation that has been central to the discussions of the tale by historians of sexuality. folio 51v). “ad thorum volentum puerum.1 2 4 .

not very certain which he had been more that night.” its distance from its complement “fu. where “non assai certo qual più stato si fosse la notte o moglie o marito” appears between commas.26 Branca identifies an authoritative witness of this earlier redaction in Italian 482. which seems the most logical way to parse the sentence (2: 704. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A and Menon cite. There may be a preferred interpretation that is more likely to convey authorial intent. our trans. the local piazza.). Boccaccio replaces Pietro’s role as companion to the boy on his walk to the piazza with a phrase describing the boy’s uncertainty. eager to figure out what is going on even as the phrasing frustrates any certain satisfaction of that desire. Returning to the passage twenty years later. “Variazioni” 204. in part because the idea that they are in fact authorial variants is a quite recent one. written between 1349 and 1352. in Doody 206).29 This reading suggests that Boccaccio intended the boy’s uncertainty to involve whether he had been more husband or wife that night. “readers are not only readers but truly are made into commentators” (qtd.). the later variant’s focus on the boy’s confusion about his nocturnal adventures actually emphasizes Boccaccio’s distance from his source. our trans.32 Similarly. either wife or husband’ (Hamilton 90. and the potential association of “accompagnato” with what happens in the bed and thus with the boy’s uncertainty all invite a reader’s hesitation about the meaning of the passage and provoke the interpretation offered by McWilliam and shared by Goldberg and Menon. folio 122ra. were already in circulation (“Variazioni” 5). novella 10. when Pietro’s wife suggests that her husband wishes a heavenly fire would engulf all womankind. but the sense of the passage remains confusing. in this case the critics fix the sense of the text to emphasize a meaning conducive to their argument. a perspective not unlike that of Apuleius’s reader. is based on Boccaccio’s autograph of the Decameron. While Goldberg and Menon’s deconstructive emphasis on indeterminacy generally supports their critique of thinking that is dependent on stabilized categories and fixed binaries. Boccaccio scholars have not yet explored the hermeneutic potential of these variants. the text reads “in su la piazza fu il giovane da Pietro accompagnato” ‘the youth was accompanied into the piazza by Pietro’ (Italian 482.” the absence of punctuation in the authoritative holograph.27 Most of the changes between the two versions are minor.). but this passage shows an unusually elaborate revision. copies of an earlier authorized version.28 Our translation follows Branca’s punctuation of the phrase in his critical edition. In the first authorial version. where the boy is introduced into a traditional place of public reckoning. a manuscript housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.30 It is a moment when.31 The epistemological uncertainty created by the variant reinforces the refusal to judge that is characteristic of both versions of Boccaccio’s conclusion to the story. our trans. While the only critic to comment on Boccaccio’s revision of this passage before this essay uses it as an index of Boccaccio’s knowledge of Apuleius’s text and contends that it shows “un’adesione maggiore alla versione apuleiana” ‘a greater adherence to the Apuleian version’ (Branca. the image is “marked by the (deadly serious) play on the Biblical—but also literal—punishment for sodomy” (Freccero 46). 63). according to Branca. but Boc­ cac­ . day 5. and in so doing has caused confusion among interpreters: “in su la piaça fu il giovane non assai certo qual piu stato si fosse la nocte o moglie o marito accompagniato” ‘the youth was accompanied into the piazza. The placement of “accompagnato. folio 72va. Boccaccio made this version late in his life (1370–72). but no judgment occurs. when. where the boy is raped and beaten by the husband. sec. but the complex syntax puts the reader in the boy’s position. Boccaccio.826  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. as Beroaldus writes in another connection in his commentary on Apuleius. now Hamilton 90 in Berlin’s Staatsbibliothek.

As the rest of the story shows. Boccaccio’s most significant structural change to the story reinforces this reorientation of the story toward a concern with women. 5) As you listen. Dioneo’s use of the figure of the sodomite to advance a particular view about the “relations of symmetry and reciprocity between husband and wife” (Foucault. women’s desires are of paramount interest. com­ pas­ sione avendo all’al­ trui scia­ gure dove ­ bisogna. laugh at the woman’s tricks. a pursuit reinforced by the incitation to hermeneutic desire he includes in his introductory remarks. where he instructs readers how to respond to the three characters of the story. ascoltandola. or libido sciendi. but Dioneo acknowledges the limits of this strategy in the next sentence. distesa la di­ li­ cata mano. Use 253) might be located in the shift Foucault identifies from the problem of boys to the problem of women in his brief discussions of the medieval world at the end of the second and third volumes of The History of Sexuality. day 4. novella 10. (2: 693. pausing where occasion warrants to commiserate with the woes of her lover. For Dioneo. Whereas Hal­ pe­ rin contends that Pietro is “more than the juridical subject of a sodomitical act” (41). Schachter 827  cio never makes Pietro its victim.34 “Unlike Freud. day 5. sec. e liete ri­ de­ rete degli amorosi in­ ganni della sua donna. Where Apuleius has the old lady tell a (potentially fictitious) story extolling Philesitherus’s prowess. and stretch forth your tender hands to pluck the roses.35 She describes this difference in biological and binary terms. (McWilliam 432–33) The narrator’s remarks seem to encourage his female audience to pursue a binary reading strategy. Eisner and Marc D. leaving the thorns where they are. “Dioneo knows what women want”—to be satisfied sexually (288). whilst you laugh gaily at the amorous intrigues of his wife. Pietro is depicted as he is not because his specific sodomitical disposition was the only way for Boccaccio to update the character of the pistor from The Golden Ass—as Halperin contends in the passage cited at the outset of our discussion of Boccaccio—but rather because characters like Pietro are instruments in Dioneo’s larger program of seduction. it is important to emphasize that Boccaccio never makes him a juridical subject at all. it does integrate the erotic and the hermeneutic in a suggestive manner that is familiar from the Roman de la rose and central to the erotics of knowledge. quello ne fate che usate siete di fare quando ne’ giardini entrate. che.33 This concern with female desire may explain why Dioneo often tells stories about men who cannot or will not accommodate women’s desires (1: 303–14. the old lady had to take every opportunity she could find to satisfy the fire of her desires because while men “nascono buoni . where he provides an interpretive guide to the story as a whole: E voi. This strategic suspension of judgment can already be found in the narrator Dioneo’s advice to his female audience in the tale’s introduction. As a younger woman.3   ] Martin G. 1: 570–83. and have “compassione” for the boy’s sufferings— an instruction that recalls the work’s inaugural expression: “umana cosa è aver compassione degli afflitti” ‘it is a human trait to have compassion for the afflicted. day 2.1 2 4 .’ Although the binary image of the rose does not quite fit the story it prefaces. do as you would when you enter a garden. This you will succeed in doing if you leave the knavish husband to his ill deserts and his iniquities. novella 10): these men represent obstacles to the satisfaction of such desires and allow him to valorize those desires. while the sexuality of boy and husband are not really problematic. They are to leave the husband to an uncertain (but certainly not positive) fate. cogliete le rose e lasciate le spine stare: il che farete lasciando il cat­ tivo uomo con la mala ventura stare con la sua di­ so­ ne­ stà. Dioneo’s point is to encourage his female audience’s pursuit of sexual pleasure.” as Teodolinda Barolini quips. in Boccaccio she offers a long speech on sexual difference and female desires. novella 10.

shows a movement toward accommodation rather than retaliation. this way whatever the ass gives in butting a wall. day 5. divorce. Like Dioneo’s earlier flawed interpretive frame of the rose and its thorns.’ generates a similar ambiguity and uses a playful sexual scenario to frame epistemological problems. keep it in mind until you can. which seeks to reinforce the already enunciated binaries: “Per che così vi vo’ dire. whether of Boccaccio’s two husbands arriving home early (the first threatens violence. stick ’em back. in a manner consonant with his literary ars combinatoria (“combinatory art”) and moral disposition toward accommodation rather than judgment. my dear ladies. the model of vengeance the proverb proposes does not correspond to the contours of the story itself. For the old lady.” to use Singleton’s biblically inflected translation (441). “non assai certo qual più stato si fosse la notte o moglie o marito” ‘not very certain which he had been more that night. An analogical reading. which concentrates the De­ ca­ . Her speech “provides the theoretical foundation for a wife’s infidelity” (Barolini 293–94) and reflects not only Dioneo’s erotic interests but also the logic and rhetoric of sexual difference found in the work’s proem. . where characters invoke binaries whose status Boccaccio seeks to unsettle. the proof of this contention is that one woman exhausts many men but many men cannot exhaust one woman. and death) compared to Boccaccio’s (a satisfying threesome). not offering answers. or’ in the revision expresses a fundamental feature of Boccaccio’s poetics in the De­ ca­ me­ ron.40 The story of Pietro is also the story of Dioneo’s rose. fagliele.39 The phrase Boccac­ cio adds to the conclusion of Dioneo’s tale in the Hamilton autograph. the clamorous contrast between the story and Dioneo’s interpretation has elicited numerous interpretations.’ many of which they can continue to do as they grow older. The revision exemplifies Boccaccio’s desire to present polarities that he feels no obligation to resolve. is that whoever sticks it to you. novella 10 [Bondanella and Musa 376]). while the second proposes sharing) or of Apuleius’s version (rape. however. you do it to him. and if you can’t. Boccaccio. .828  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. the possibility of definitive judgment about Ser Cepperello’s damnation or salvation is left forever suspended. visible in the novella’s opening image of the rose and its final image of an ass. whose ninth book. . day 5. and in the final novella. Boccaccio is interested in performing dilemmas. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A a mille cose” ‘are born good for a thousand things. “le femine a niuna altra cosa che a fare questo e figliuoli ci nascono” ‘women are born for nothing other than doing this [i. This use of sex to thematize the difficulty of obtaining definite knowledge itself challenges the desire to locate definitive information in Boccaccio’s text for any history. reflects the epistemological problems of interpretation and judgment that bookend the Decameron as a whole. acciò che quale asino dà in parete tal riceva” ‘And so my advice to you. the tale of Griselda. having sex] and bearing children’ (2: 697. donne mie care. .38 In the De­ ca­ me­ ron’s first novella. from Petrarch’s to those of modern critics.e.]). he gets back in return’ (2: 704. likewise ends with a puzzling proverb featuring an ass. tienloti a mente fin che tu possa. e se tu non puoi. where the miller’s tale appears.. also recounted by Dioneo. either wife or husband.37 Far from endorsing Dioneo’s maxim “Whoso does it to you. The proverb’s clever invocation of the figure of the ass indicates the tale’s Apuleian origin in the style of The Golden Ass. This tension between the narrative and its proposed meaning. The deployment of the correlative conjunctions “o . especially that of sexuality. o” ‘either . the novella presents the possibility that reconciliation can take the place of punishment.36 The old lady’s advice to Pietro’s wife that she give “pan per focaccia” (usually En­ glished as “tit for tat”) anticipates the story’s continued association of food and sex in a formulation that reflects Dioneo’s concluding proverb. novella 10 [our trans. che chi te la fa.

the fiftieth and fifty-­ f irst stories in a collection of one hundred tales can lay equal claim to being the work’s center.3   ] Martin G. the novella of Madonna Oretta. narrative. and they seek to foster ways of being in the world that might evade what Foucault memorably referred to as “the austere monarchy of sex” (Introduction 159).41 As the fiftieth tale in a collection of one hundred stories. textual. men who .45 Multiplying Temporalities and Desires in the Archive Although the theoretical and methodological interventions offered by Halperin. “Boccaccio’s Ars Narrandi ” 239) and has its own Apuleian pedigree (Usher). the story’s placement should prompt further explorations of the story’s role in the Decameron as a whole. Instead of comparing and contrasting Apuleius and Boccaccio to generate evidence for exemplary social types. and the recent attention given to the pederastic dimension of the story of Philesitherus in The Golden Ass should not exclude consideration of the significant place of eroticized knowledge in several of the novel’s key relationships between women and men—from Lucius’s encounters with Photis and Pamphile at the novel’s outset to Cupid’s romance with Psyche in the middle and Lucius’s salvation by Isis at the end. They oppose the hegemony of normative understandings of sexual identity. and epistemology (themselves historical) might contribute to a different kind of history of sexuality. they do share two common aims. the story’s pivotal place in the Decameron’s “regime of imperfect symmetries” has not yet been adequately explored. the current essay asks how these works’ literary and textual histories. Another fruitful avenue of inquiry would consider how.1 2 4 . a decision that anticipates the analogical reading practice to which his story and Apuleius’s have been subjected in the recent debates. whether normal or abnormal. Inspired by feminist and queer scholarship on the cultural politics of editing. Carla Freccero. thus rehearsing an epistemological problem that is central to the study of the history of sexuality. they might give more consideration than they have to Boccaccio’s decision to repeat with a difference a story that is itself constructed on differential repetition. Eisner and Marc D. interpretation. Foucault locates the beginning of this transformation in the late antique novel.43 As Decameron critics continue to integrate issues of gender and sexuality with long-­ standing concerns for form and structure. this essay’s aleatory encounters with the visual.44 As for historians of sexuality. along with their literary— and philosophical—investigations into desire. One way to pursue this project would be to place The Golden Ass within the shift in “moral reflection on sexual pleasures” from a focus on the problem of boys to a concern with women’s chastity that Foucault outlines at the end of the second volume of The His­ tory of Sexuality (Use 253) and develops more fully at the conclusion to the third. Schachter 829  me­ ron’s concerns with erotic and hermeneutic desires but fails to accommodate the full range of experiences the novella expresses. or for information about sex acts in the past and their social meaning. and commentary traditions of The Golden Ass and the Decameron have taken the study of the history of sexuality beyond the straight and narrow of the critical edition and into the archives to explore how escaping the austere monarchy of the modern edited text might contribute to these goals.42 Although the next story in the collection. has often been called “the center of the Decameron” (Fido. despite Foucault’s observation about the decreasing philosophical import of pederasty and the increasing scrutiny of relationships between men and women. While some features of its narrative have figured prominently in recent debates in the history of sexuality. and Goldberg and Menon exemplify quite different approaches to the study of the history of sexuality. the story is also central to the Decameron’s structure.

emergent identity. in any case. Our thanks go also to Erin C. They also suggest that the study of the history of sexuality should acknowledge and account for its place in this genealogy. to a lesser extent. The preceding analyses of The Golden Ass and the Decameron offer novel paradigms for the understanding of these well-studied texts by focusing on their solicitation of libido sciendi instead of their representations of social history.47 One potential limitation of this debate— and of the debate about Boccaccio. Foucault contrasts a scientia sexualis interested in apprehending the truth of sex and desire with an ars erotica that seeks to cultivate erotic pleasure before he acknowledges that a scientia sexualis might have its own erotics (Introduction 57–58. and then fade from view?” (130). proto-­ ­ identity. and knowledge that would situate the contemporary apparatus of sexuality and the erotics of interpretation in the longue durée. and Valerie Traub for their valuable suggestions as well as Gary Ferguson for sharing forthcoming work. becoming saturated with meaning. Deanna Shemek. and the Study of the History of Sexuality [  P M L A desire boys and the figure of the sodomite are loci of intense epistemological uncertainty in texts such as the Decameron and Dante’s Commedia. in one way or another and to the extent possible. Carla Zecher of the Newberry Library. Drawing on Walters’s comparative study of masculinity in the episode from The Golden Ass and its reworking in the Decameron. who helped obtain the image from Boccaccio’s autograph of Apuleius. Freccero emphasizes the implications of the complex literariness of the Decameron while arguing that investment in “produc[ing] truths about people of the past through sex” is antithetical to Foucault’s project (46). following the kind of curiosity that Foucault defined in the second volume of The History of Sexuality as “the only kind of curiosity. who kindly verified a crucial transcription from an early edition of Apuleius. or subidentity” (43).” Foucault continues. mistakenly find in the first volume of Foucault’s History of Sex­ uality and then apply in their own work a rigid distinction between modern identities and premodern acts. incomplete identity. Notes The authors would like to thank Albert Ascoli. Foucault’s evocation of curiosity recalls the curiositas of Lucius. In turn. Boccaccio.830  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. “what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not.46 These analyses might contribute to a larger historiographical inquiry framed by Valerie Traub’s question “Why do certain figures and tropes of eroticism (and gender) become culturally salient at certain moments. Halperin calls for attention instead to the range of ways in which sex acts might be relevant to the consolidation of social identity at different historical junctures through the analysis of “partial identity. 70–72). semiidentity. but that which enables one to get free of oneself ” (Use 8). 1. desire. Halperin inaugurated the debate with a critique of the historians of sexuality who. Apuleius. which leads to his metamorphosis into an ass. the Apuleian source in a manifesto about the methods and goals of queer historiography that draws on less frequented moments in the first volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality to empha- . Whereas Halperin acknowledges that he simplifies the Boccaccian and Apuleian stories. Michael Sherberg. These inquiries suggest that it would be possible to construct a genealogy of the links between sex. transient identity. and Davide Balbi. Tobias Foster Gittes. Goldberg and Menon address the Decameron tale and. Regina Psaki. Such endeavors are most worthwhile if they do more than add to the accumulation of knowledge and actually change how knowledge is understood. “After all. In the first volume of The History of Sex­ uality. in his view. Whether this metamorphosis indicates actual change or instead denotes Lucius’s nature—invariably bestial until his ambiguous redemption at the end of the novel—is a matter of scholarly debate. Blake of the Folger Shakespeare Library. who provided expert assistance with the woodcuts. in the knower’s straying afield of himself?” (Use 8). and the study of the history of sexuality in which the present essay participates—is that specimen texts provide examples to animate already articulated positions rather than occasions for transformation. that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know.

6. see Acocella 146–47 and Mortimer 30–32. see Gaisser and Carver. . “Curiosity. Given our understanding of the Apuleius passage. . Schlam. The letter in question is not reproduced in the 1999 Loeb edition of Cicero’s Letters to Atticus. edited and translated by D. The crossing out can be found in a copy of the 1544 edition of Boiardo’s translation published in Venice by Bartolomeo detto l’Imperatore and Francesco Vinitiano. which addresses ears at some length. The 1518 editio princeps (Apulegio volgare. . bk. both of which appeared as this essay was being revised. which manifests itself most spectacularly in a scene in book 8 when Lucius precipitously—and incorrectly—jumps to a conclusion about the depravity of Charity. For the Latin text with fuller apparatus. which finds particular delight in witnessing obscene activity. sec. Halperin’s intervention was published first in Representations in 1998 and then again in revised form in his 2002 How to Do the His­ tory of Homosexuality. multiscientia would here mean something like a not necessarily useful accumulation of information. 5. bk. now in the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome (L’Apuleio 81r). On the reception of The Golden Ass.” 8.1 2 4 . just as the lingering nose and smile are the remnants of the three-­ way that Boccaccio realizes but Apuleius only suggests. as discussed by Martinez. On epheberasty. 2. see Turner. mutatis mutandis. Disagreeing with Shumate’s contention that multiscientia is a mature form of prudentia (247n36). 7. see Schlam. when we make general remarks about Halperin’s argument. his aunt Byrrhena warns him that he is “per aetatem et pulchritudinem” ‘quite young and handsome enough’ for the epheberastic witch Pamphile (1: 68–69. As has been frequently observed. On the significance of remarks concerning Lucius’s human physiognomy. On the adultery tales. The images have been reprinted most recently by Rizzoli for a paperback Italian translation of The Golden Ass (L’a­ sino).). . . see the essays in Kahane and Laird. see Bynum 1001–12. and Moreschini. DeFilippo. the noun curiosi­ tas. Lucius’s youth and beauty receive more than passing comment. announcing that “tunc 831  size how Boccaccio’s text offers possibilities for desires and pleasures that cannot be plotted by identity-­ based models of sexuality.) included half as many images as the 1519 edition (Apulegio volgare: Diviso . 8. 25]). her discussion remains illuminating for Lucius’s case. 7. . Bynum focuses on werewolf stories around the year 1200. On desire in The Golden Ass. they apply to both versions. 5). such as meddlesomeness. Lucius is anally penetrated by the old woman who recounts the story of Cupid and Psyche (2: 54–57. also edited by Shackleton Bailey (1: 68. appears only once before Apuleius. Walsh. 14.” condemned as enslaving man to desire. bk. 2. tra­ dotto . the altered woodblock’s two figures in bed are the trace of the suppressed erotic encounter found in the original. Kenney’s essay offers a sustained discussion of the nuances in meaning and usage of these and semantically related terms. which focuses on the myth of Cupid and Psyche. 2). 10. but it can be found in the Teubner edition of the original Latin text (Epistulae). letter 12. There is considerable debate about this passage and about the significance of key terms in it. Eisner and Marc D. in one of Cicero’s letters to Atticus. see Hijmans et al. sec. who also discusses in depth the eroticization of knowledge and addresses in passing Renaissance adaptations of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. 28). sec. Despite these interventions. On parody. 15.3   ] Martin G. especially Gowers’s. Finkelpearl 36–55. 3. Kenney argues that this passage demonstrates for the reader that the auctorial Lucius has not learned from his misadventures (168). On the prologue. R. One element that would be particularly worthy of development is Lucius’s misogyny.” Schlam observes that “[p]rying. In “Curiosity. We quote throughout from the later version. “Sex. especially the parody of literary texts. see Keulen. Unless otherwise noted. Fumagalli has discussed how the text of Boiardo’s translation of The Golden Ass is influenced by Boccaccio’s imitations of Apuleius in the Decameron (137–44). becomes a party to lust itself” (121). the Latin text and En­ g lish translations of The Golden Ass are drawn from Hanson’s edition.” There is another adultery tale earlier in book 9 that Boccaccio also takes up and reworks in the Decameron (798–804. practical judgment. 11. Walters does mention in passing that the narrator of the events he analyzes is “a donkey” (22). 377. see Winkler 173–76. including Byrrhena’s comments. Foucault mentions the cinaedic priests in The Golden Ass during a discussion of continuities and ruptures in “sexual” morality across time (Use 19). The use of implantation is meant to recall Foucault’s discussion of “the perverse implantation” in the first volume of The History of Sexu­ ality (Introduction 36–49). 2. see Robertson’s edition (Les métamorphoses). See also Traub. and Ferguson. 9. and an auctioneer tells a cinaedic priest looking to buy Lucius to thrust his face between the ass’s thighs to see how great his “passivity” is (“quam grandem . patientiam” [2: 106–07. For a disagreement with Winkler’s interpretation of prudence in this passage. 13. who offers a helpful disciplinary mapping of the debate and is skeptical of Freccero’s and Goldberg and Menon’s arguments. which includes meanings not present in the En­ g lish cognate. or even wisdom. For example. while prudentia signifies prudence. Schachter Westerbrink. or treated ambivalently is contested. whose disagreement is mostly with Halperin. 4. 362–79. novella 2). see . whether it is celebrated as necessary for “salvation. For the history of their reprintings. 12. See Hijmans et al. Shackleton Bailey. On Lucius’s gender. bk. day 7. but. see Konstan 125–38. While there is a general consensus that curiositas is a crucial concept for the novel. On the relation between shape and self-­ i dentity and on the continuity of consciousness in human-­ to-­ a nimal metamorphoses. sec.

and the Study of the History of Sexuality . ­ 20. which Singleton renders more literally as “which he had the more been that night. bk. argues that in the Genealogie Boccac­ cio rejects outright his amorous writings in the vernacular. The issue of the Decameron’s place in Boccaccio’s theoretical reflections in the Genealogie is a vexed one. 6. Nevertheless. 22. wife or husband” (441). The reading from Italian 482 can also be found in Branca. 24. Moreover. When Beroaldus finds an obscene signification under dividundo. where the boy is discovered hiding after the husband’s unanticipated return interrupts the would-be lovers’ dinner. 27. his thinking on the matter is anything but unequivocal. Apuleius a tragedy—or at least a melodrama” (103–04). Relating the regulation of sex to self-­ mastery and the management of other forms of pleasure is one of the goals of the second and third volumes of Foucault’s History of Sexuality. which may be in Boccaccio’s hand. he luxuriates in the libido sciendi the novel represents and incites. see Gaisser 93–99. Refusing to take responsibility for his metamorphosis. “by the standards of Greco-­ Roman society. In their transcriptions of the Latin. bk. In his “Apology” (Pro se de magia). . 25. For two more-­ recent assessments of Boccaccio’s relationship with Apuleius. 34). 7. where he rejects the tales of old women as meaningless in one chapter and then in the next suggests that they do contain a hidden meaning. “Riflessioni”. For example. the vengeful cuckolds Valerius lists all belong to the upper echelons of Roman society.832  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. including castration and whipping. 19. were not held to have done anything wrong in giving vent to their anger” (24). sec. for example. 23. which suggests Apuleius also plays a significant role in Boccaccio’s thinking about the problems of desire. as he does throughout his commentary. Bruni. 16. Vio). bk. In addition to being imagined more graphically. Carver 127–41. Compare Beroaldus’s gloss with the marginal note to the same passage found in an early manuscript of The Golden Ass. unless otherwise noted. It can also be found in Branca. vicissim eo utendo” ‘As if to say. One early manuscript of The Golden Ass. Lucius also routinely blames Photis for his transformation into an ass. a word that evokes the medieval practice of parsing texts in order to interpret them. The Hamilton . c. the old woman’s discourse is radically revised in a sixteenthcentury edition (Chiecchi and Troisio 96). the critical study of variants. remains strong in the wake of Gianfranco Contini’s pathbreaking studies and it is surely only a matter of time before these materials are exhaustively mined. 17. using him in turn’ (Opera . Rafti. Boccaccio has written a comedy. In marshaling evidence that the pistor’s retribution against the youth was. . 13). transcribed in n21. such a reading simplifies the ambiguities of Boccaccio’s own statements on the matter in the text. sec. “Variazioni” 108. This recurrent element of Lucius’s personality should be taken into account in discussions of the representation of the pistor and his wife.]). 10). 5. I do not want to entirely separate myself from my wife or divorce her on account of her adultery. In the Genealogie. and their endings are entirely different. . 18. ch. the pistor uses vocabulary that appears in Apuleius’s defense of his own practice of writing love poetry about boys. Sabbadini even attributed the discovery of the Montecassino manuscript of Apuleius’s works. 28. This is not the case in Apuleius. previous scholars have omitted “vicissim” ‘in turn’ (Gaisser 107n131. the oldest manuscripts of [  P M L A Apuleius do bear traces of Boccaccio’s use of them in their margins (Fiorilla.” Walters notes that after Valerius Maximus lists several extrajudicial punishments of adulterers. on which modern editions are based. 22. Biblioteca Medicea Lau­ ren­ zi­ a na 29. 60r). Apuleius defends himself against the charge of poetic and sexual impropriety by describing one of his adversaries in the lawsuit as “agrestis quidem semper et barbarus” ‘invariably rustic and uncivilized’ (43. to Boccaccio. On the legend of Boccaccio’s visit to Montecassino. . 21. the story was modified by censors. about the miller’s misleading proposal: “Q[uasi] d[icat] nolo me totaliter ab uxore mea se­ pa­ rare vel divortium cum ea facere propter adulterium per eam commissum. below. 26. Scholars have long appreciated Boccaccio’s important role in the rediscovery of Apuleius. Would their comportment have set the standard for that of a miller? Intriguingly. sec. For an exploration of the ideological investments of Boccaccio translations. see also Coulter. although not all the editions dated 1992 contain the list of variants. Boccaccio. includes a marginal comment. sed puellum adulescentem tamquam co­ mu­ nem inter nos dividere. The fashion for variantistica .” while Waldman’s translation “not entirely sure whether last night he’d served more in the role of wife or husband” (380) agrees with Singleton’s (Decameron [1982]). Vio 155n23). see Migiel. he concludes that “these men . 1. Whether he rejects his novellas or justifies them. Note that Waldman’s “in the role of ” glosses the original. All quotations from the original text of the De­ ca­ me­ ron are from Branca’s edition. not an unreasonable one. . but to divide the adolescent boy as it were communally. 6). . A similar divergence of interpretations can be found in other En­ g lish versions: Bondanella and Musa share McWilliam’s interpretation “with which. Decameron 1: cxxxiii. but that discovery has since been disproved by Billanovich. ch. The most fully developed expression of this thesis can be found in Branca and Vitale. Hijmans and his fellow editors offer a sustained argument that the pistor is indeed a hypocrite (app. .2. Boccaccio reads the story of Cupid and Psyche as an allegory of “superb[us] desideri[us]” ‘overwhelming desire’ (1: 568. although she only aided him reluctantly in his pursuit of magic. 16 [our trans. 1200. In our view. But the examples Valerius gives concern adulterers found in flagrante delicto (1: 375. totarum mulierum secta moresque de asini pendebant iudicio” ‘at that moment the character and principles of all womankind depended on an ass’s verdict’ (2: 22–23. Gaisser notes that the two stories “differ markedly in tone and characterization.

see Rocke.) 38. For a detailed analysis of Boccaccio’s punctuation habits in Hamilton 90. the specifics of his representation are determined by narrative requirements. For a careful consideration of the problem of truth and interpretation in day 1. On the importance of accommodation in the Decameron more generally. 44. then day 5. Marcus. Schachter ment of desire after extended tribulations (670–91. This is not to say that Pietro does not present a recognizable social type. provide an account of the sodomite very different from that found in Decameron. Here the happiness of all three is arranged immediately thanks to the “disonestà” ‘iniquities’ of Pietro rather than prolonged in the face of conflicting desires and obligations as in the earlier stories.” On the range of manifestations of male same-­ sex desire in medieval Italy. An equally important context is that constituted by the surrounding tales. The persona of the author of the proem should be carefully distinguished from the historical Boccaccio. Dioneo’s closing remark in his story of Griselda. day 5. “Lumina.). novella 1. “reading fundamentally proceeds by divisio [‘division’]” (174). 42. Vio. at times. see Rafti. rather. Do not skip over these parts and do not shy away from them. Noting that the rose is a conventional image of the female genitalia. like day 5. see Fido. “[L]‌ asci star quelle che pungono e quelle che dilettan legga” ‘[L]‌ eave alone those that sting and read those that delight’ (2: 1259. 35.” On the history of punctuation. The quotation is a translation of the title of Fido’s book on Boccaccio (Il regime delle simmetrie imperfette) and neatly captures the complex structures that Boccaccio builds into his work to encourage associations that seem to promise the discovery of some truth even as they thwart it.3   ] Martin G. Boccaccio’s commentary on cantos 15 and 16 of Dante’s Inferno. All its events are the personal affairs of isolated people. 37. The importance of the change is noted by RadcliffUmstead. 34. who argues that Boccaccio “polarizes sexual difference [while] mov[ing] away from clear polarizations of male and female” (162). see Greene. 833  90 wording can also be found in Singleton’s diplomatic edition (Decameron [1974]).” For Mazzotta. that an appropriate recital of the facts has compelled me to mix the impure with the pure. novella 9. . see Picone. 41. . . as it were. 40. Events acquire a public significance as such only when they become crimes. Stone remarks that “[i]f Dioneo is not exactly telling his female audience to practice lesbianism. 33. 31. Also note the importance of the theme in day 5 of the fulfill- . Ferguson suggests that the phrase may have been made intentionally ambiguous. a tale that Erich Auerbach memorably analyzed. . Gaylard follows Barolini’s signaling of this centrality and offers a reading of the Decameron episodes that feature men who desire men. but persevere in your reading. see Parkes’s magisterial study. For an incisive reading of Auerbach that explores issues of periodization that are important to the history of sexuality debate but beyond the scope of this essay. that Griselda should have found another man to “scuotere il pilliccione” ‘shake her skincoat’ (2: 1248. 29. Stone finds it “a celebration of the bisexual third party” (196). . For a useful categorization of the levels of narration in the De­ ca­ me­ ron. “Pederastic Insemination. ­ 36. novella 10. leaving aside the thorns. involuntarily public” (122). . like the destructive one in day 4. Ferguson added an interesting discussion of the variant in the autograph Decameron manuscripts to Queer (Re)Readings (60–61). After reading a draft of this essay during an exchange of work on Apuleius and Boccaccio. that Dioneo’s privilege is not to have to follow any given day’s topic. he is at least telling them to read homosexually” (198). so in this case relegate to one side offensive matters and gather what is praise-­ worthy” (Brown 5). and explicitly. and day 5. novella 8. novella 8. see Ascoli. Boccaccio’s strategic suspension of judgments may be part of his ongoing. in the dedication of De mulieri­ bus claris (Famous Women) to Andrea Acciaiuoli: “You will find. in the author’s conclusion to the Decameron.1 2 4 . See Cestaro. alone would occupy the central position. day 10. 32. see Migiel. “Tale. as well as Carruthers’s considerations of how. practically “unmakes the story he has just told” (128). Boccaccio uses the public square as the place for judgment in the tale of Frate Alberto in Decameron. for example. The ass and the rose are foundational—and related—plot elements in The Golden Ass since it is the consumption of roses that returns Lucius to human form. It would be intriguing to read this novella in the light of some of the book’s other erotic triangles. novella 10 [McWilliam 795]). The affinities between the remarks in the proem and Dioneo’s project require further investigation. Bakhtin’s comments on the role of the public square as a place for judgment in his discussion of The Golden Ass are illuminating on this point: “The everyday life that Lucius observes and studies is an exclusively per­ sonal and private life. novellas 8–9). 30. novella 9. day 4. 43. not by Boccaccio’s lack of options or by an idea of the medieval sodomite as a unified and stable being. If one counts the incomplete novella of the introduction to day 4. Eisner and Marc D. These events are not liable to public reckoning on the open square. For similar observations about Boccaccio’s treatment of gender. (It is worth recalling. novella 2. which he announces in the appropriation of Dante’s damned moniker Galeotto as the “cognome” ‘surname’ of his Decameron. Boccaccio returns to the same floral image to figure the act of reading both implicitly. or the generously diffused one of day 10. as well as day 6. 39. book 5. however. As on entering a garden you extend your ivory hands towards the flowers. our trans. parodic engagement with Dante. following Hugh of Saint Victor. when he commands. novella 10. The criminal act is a moment in private life that becomes. Sanguineti White.

” Mimesis: The Represen­ tation of Reality in Western Literature. Ravenna: Longo. et diligentemente correcto: Con le sue fabule in mar­ gine poste. Peter. One important dimension of the argument Goldberg and Menon put forth is their critique of approaches to history that presume a self-­ identical. Cambridge: Harvard UP. D. Vittore Branca. 25–121. Amorosa visione . Apuleius. 2002. Print. “Frate Alberto. & ri­ cor­ retto con ogni diligenza. Barolini. Nuovamente. 3 vols. sentenze. and Castelvetro notes that Boccaccio stole his story from Apuleius just as Apuleius stole his tale of the golden ass (120). ———. Charles G. Decameron. Stephen Harrison. Opera . 1500. Apuleius claims to have adapted his story from a Greek original. ———. Cestaro. By Auerbach. 2001. above.10). MS. 54. Amsterdam: Gieben. Armour. 453. 2003. 2001. Boccaccio on Poetry: Being the Preface and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Books of Boccaccio’s Genealogia deorum gentilium. Trans. Print.” Studi sul Boc­ caccio 21 (1993): 175–97. Biblioteca Medicea Lau­ ren­ zi­ a na. which would add another degree of differential repetition. Vincenzo de Polo da Ve­ ne­ t ia. Lyon: Jean de Tournes. Matteo Maria Boiardo. “Le parole son femmine e i fatti sono maschi: Toward a Sexual Poetics of the Decameron (Decameron 2. Print. Print. Print. ———. Trans. although it seems unlikely that he would have known enough about Lucian’s work to be aware of that fact. 1519. Trans. New York: Fordham UP. Trans. — — —. Opera. ———. 1639. Osgood. Giuseppe. Hanson. — — —. Pequigney. Apulegio volgare. Apulegio volgare: Diviso in undeci libri. 1946–56. — — —. Ed. Print. ———. N. Vincenzo de Polo da Venetia. L’Apuleio tradotto in volgare dal conte Matteo Ma­ r ia Boiardo Historiato. M. revisto. Matteo Maria Boiardo. Bakhtin. Ed. Boccaccio includes this piece of information in his characterization of Apuleius in the second version of his Amorosa visione (canto 5.2. 1953. This concern could be linked to the present essay’s preoccupation with variants that demonstrate the instability of texts and with transmission histories that frustrate expectations of linearity. Pompeo Vizani.834  Libido Sciendi: Apuleius. Print.” Trans. have been mentioned. “Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel. Vincent Hunink. Billanovich. 5. Rhetorical Works. L’asino d’oro di Lucio Apuleio filosofo Platonico. 282–303. 1544. Trask. 2006. Rpt. “I primi umanisti e le tradizioni dei classici latini.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays . Decameron . “Dante’s Brunetto: The Paternal Paterine?” Italian Studies 38 (1983): 1–38. Mariantonietta. novamente stam­ pato & in molti lochi aggiontovi che nella prima im­ pres­ sione gli manchava. Metamorphose. quello che per inanzi non era . Willard R. 47. Pro se de magia. Trans. 1953. Ed. MS. & altre piu cose notabili. see Pézard. Princeton: Prince­ ton UP. Print. Biblioteca Medicea Lau­ ren­ ziana.10). Les métamorphoses. 1553. Print. 1989. Francesco Vinitiano. George de la Bouthiere. See the works listed in n46. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Guillaume Gazeau. o Le metamorfosi : Con le 64 xilografie dell’­ edizione veneziana del 1519. L’asino d’oro nel Rinascimento. that the miller’s tale is not found in the Greek original.” Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture. “Apology. detti. By Barolini. L’asne d’or. Print. Torino: Einaudi. fatti. Trans. Padova: Antenore. 1981. Robertson. novella 10. Print. 1200. Milano: Mondadori. 1992. It is impossible to say whether Boccaccio knew. — — —. secondo che poste sono in margine. C. Print. 44. Paris. Firenze.” Studi sul Boccaccio 20 (1991–92): 377–97. Boccaccio. 1974. Prince­ ton: Princeton UP. radically other past. ———. lines 37–39). of “Le parole son femmine e i fatti sono maschi: Toward a Sexual Poetics of the Decameron (Decameron II. Venezia: Ni­ colo d’Aristotele da Ferrara. Giovanni. Kay. 117–41. Oxford: Oxford UP. Print. Loeb Classical Lib. and the Study of the History of Sexuality novella 1. Ascoli. Claudio An­ na­ ra­ tone. 1930. Venezia: Nicolo d’Aristotele da Ferrara. Philippus. For some more-­ recent perspectives. Trans. ———. Auerbach. Print. knowable present anchored in its difference from a discrete. Print. Print. 46. 45. Commentarii a Philippo Beroaldo conditi in asinum aureum Lucii Apuleii . Trans. BN. Vol. 2.32. C. Albert Russell. & de molte piu figure ador­ nato. Boccaccio. Dante’s treatment of sodomites has vexed scholars since Boccaccio. Venezia: Ghirardo Imberti. [  P M L A Works Cited Acocella. Milano: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli. Appresso aggiuntovi un breve discorso della vita dell’autore. M. ———. Firenze. Print. 2 vols. Italian 482. 1. Vincent Hunink. “Boccaccio’s Auerbach: Holding the Mirror up to Mimesis. tradotto per il conto Mattheo Ma­ r ia Boiardo. autrement. Vittore Branca. J. Print. Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Trans. 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1) e altre citazioni apuleiane nel Boccaccio.1 2 4 . G. Winkler. Jonathan.” Gender and History 5. “‘No More Than a Boy’: The Shifting Construction of Masculinity from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages. Waldman. Jonathan. Print. Berkeley: U of California P. Print.” Studi sul Boccaccio 29 (2001): 67–103. New York: Oxford UP. Craig A. Groningen: Bouma’s. Auctor and Actor: A Narratological Read­ ing of Apuleius’s Golden Ass. Print. Ed. Walsh. Eisner and Marc D. Print. van der Paardt.” Greece and Rome 2nd ser. The Decameron . Williams. Print. Print.3   ] Martin G. 1985. 1978. Stuttgart: Teubner. Ed. Print. 837  Usher. Valerius Maximus. A. B.1 (1993): 20–33. L. John.” Studi sul Boccaccio 20 (1991–92): 139–65. trans. Westerbrink. 1999. 1998. Oxford: Oxford UP. 63–73. Th. John Briscoe. Gianluigi. P.1 (1988): 73–85. 2 vols.. Hijmans and R. Print. “The Rights and Wrongs of Curiosity (Plutarch to Augustine). “Some Parodies in Apuleius’ Meta­ morphoses . “Desultorietà nella novella portante di Madonna Oretta (Decameron VI. By Giovanni Boccaccio. Vio. G. “Chiose e riscritture apuleiane di Giovanni Boccaccio. 1993. Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. 35. Facta et dicta memorabilia. Guido. Schachter Walters. Print.” Aspects of Apuleius’ Golden Ass. .

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