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Ovidian Transversions

‘Iphis and Ianthe’, 1300-1650

Edited by Valerie Traub, Patricia Badir, Peggy McCracken

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Focuses on transversions of Ovid’s ‘Iphis and Ianthe’ in both English and French literature

Medieval and early modern authors engaged with Ovid’s tale of ‘Iphis and Ianthe’ in a number of surprising ways. From Christian translations to secular retellings on the seventeenth-century stage, Ovid’s story of a girl’s miraculous transformation into a boy sparked a diversity of responses in English and French from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. In addition to analysing various translations and commentaries, the volume clusters essays around treatments of John Lyly’s Galatea (c. 1585) and Issac de Benserade’s Iphis et Iante (1637). As a whole, the volume addresses gender and transgender, sexuality and gallantry, anatomy and alchemy, fable and history, youth and pedagogy, language and climate change.

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List of Figures



Introduction: Transversions of ‘Iphis and Ianthe’, Valerie Traub

1. Metamorphosis as Supplement: Sexuality and History in the Ovide moralisé, Peggy McCracken

2. The Trans* Temporality of Lament: ‘Foolish’ Hope and Trans* Survival in the Ovide moralisé’s ‘Iphis and Ianthe’, Laurel Billings

3. Gower’s Riddles in ‘Iphis and Iante’, Karma Lochrie

4. Fortune’s Touch: Reading Transformation in Christine de Pizan’s Mutacion de Fortune, Miranda Griffin

5. Becoming Scattered: The Case of Iphis’s Trans*version and the Archipelogic of John Florio’s Worlde of Wordes, Marjorie Rubright

6. Alchemy, Humanism, and the Uses of Disknowledge in John Lyly’s Galathea, Katherine Eggert

7. The Problem with Love: Untoward Engagement and Humanist Pedagogy in Galatea, Elizabeth Mathie

8. Coastal Squeeze: Environmental Metamorphosis and Lyly’s Lincolnshire, Patricia Badir

9. Illegible Bodies: Reading Intersex and Transgender in Early Modern France (The Case of Isaac de Benserade’s Iphis et Ianthe), Kathleen Perry Long

10. Lesbianism in Benserade’s Iphis et Ianthe (1634): Gallantry and the Making of Heterosexuality in Seventeenth-Century France, Matthieu Dupas

11. Changing the Ways of the World: Sex, Youth, and Modernity in Benserade’s Iphis et Ianthe, Susan S. Lanser


About the Author

Valerie Traub is the Adrienne Rich Distinguished University Professor and Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. Working across the disciplines of literature and history, she is a specialist in the study of gender and sexuality in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. She is the author of three monographs: Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns (2015), The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England (2002), and Desire & Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (1992, 2014). Her most recent collection is The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Embodiment (2016).

Patricia Badir is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of The Maudlin Impression: English Literary Images of Mary Magdalene, 1550-1700 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009) and her most recent set of articles studies the archival remains of early twentieth-century productions of medieval and renaissance drama. She is currently working on a series of articles that explores what it means to study the early modern past “from here” as well as book on early twentieth-century director, Roy Mitchell and the matter of the theatrical archive.

Peggy McCracken is the Mary Fair Croushore Collegiate Professor of the Humanities and Professor of French, Comparative Literature, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author or co-author of six books, including most recently In the Skin of a Beast: Sovereignty and Animality in Medieval France (2017), and translator of Gui de Cambrai’s Barlaam and Josaphat: A Christian Tale of the Buddha (2014).


A spectacular achievement. Harnessing the capacity of Ovid’s Iphis story to unsettle our categories of being and knowing, this book represents the very best in collaborative scholarship. It makes a truly transformational contribution to research on Ovid's Metamorphoses, Ovidian reception, and the history and politics of embodiment, sexuality and gender.

- Robert Mills, University College London

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