The Sienese poet Meo dei Tolomei (ca. 1260-ca. 1310) is recognized as an important figure in the comic poetry of the Italian Middle Ages. He specialized in vituperium, the poetics of insult and denigration. During the High Middle Ages, all literature was said to be a subset of ethics, and it performed its ethical functions in two ways: the praise of the virtuous, and the reprehension of the sinful. In repeated poems, Meo targeted three individuals in particular: his brother Mino, his mother, and Ciampolino, an ex-lover. In my talk, I will analyze Meo’s invectives against Ciampolino. In it, I will discuss the medieval notions of sodomy (there was no concept of a “sexual orientation,” like homosexuality), and bring that to bear on his insults against Ciampolino. Yet Meo is a subtle writer, denigrating himself at the same time he insults others. The title of my talk is based on a verse of Meo’s, in which he proclaims that he, like Ciampolino, can carouse, gamble, and “desire the masculine” as much as his former lover. In other words, he plays with the stereotype of the sodomite, and applies it as much to himself as he does to others.
Fabian Alfie is a Professor of Italian at the University of Arizona. He specializes on the comic and satiric literature of the Middle Ages, and has published numerous articles on authors such as Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. The author of several books, he is currently publishing translations of the poetry of Folgore da San Gimignano, and by Domenico di Giovanni nicknamed Burchiello (with Professor Aileen Feng).