Medieval Sex Education, Or: What About Canidia?
Alberto Burri, "Sacco L.A.," 1953: burlap and acrylic on canvas, 39 5/16 x 33 7/8 inches (101 x 87 cm), inv. 5337 - © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello – by SIAE 2016


medieval commentaries
medieval school education

How to Cite

Otter, M. (2018). Medieval Sex Education, Or: What About Canidia?. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (3), 71–89.


This essay considers two witnesses to the reception of Horace in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, particularly Epode 5, which features one of Horace's most disturbing and disruptive figures, the witch Canidia.  One witness is the comic reworking of Epode 5 in Anselmo da Besate's Rhetorimachia; the other is a drawing in Leiden ms. Gronovius 15, which shows Canidia and her young victim, the boy whom she is intending to kill in order to make a love charm.   Horace was a standard school author, and these two witnesses also point to a scholastic context of some sort.  I examine them closely to consider what sort of "sex education," or socialization and initiation to a sexual role, might be accomplished by exposing young students to the more bizarre and obscene elements of Horace's poetry (even when deflected into comedy),  and the threat to one's poise and composure, the embarrassment that comes with them.

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