CONJUGAL SODOMY IN THE GAST OF GY*
ROBERT S. STURGES
The Gast of Gy, that is, The Ghost (or Spirit) of Guy (also known under the titles The Legend of Gwydo and De spiritu Guidonis), is a Middle English prose text composed in the West Midlands dialect some time in the fourteenth century.1 It is closely translated from a Latin original, which recounts a miracle supposed to have taken place in the southern French town of Alais in 1323: the soul of the recently deceased citizen Guy, temporarily released from Purgatory, returns to haunt his widow. This ghost engages in a lengthy dialogue with the local Dominican prior (usually identified as Jean Gobi, prior of Saint-Maximin from 1304 to 1328),2 and in response to the prior's questioning makes various theological
*I wish to thank Diane Wolfthal, Miriam Youngerman Miller, an anonymous referee, and the students in my graduate seminar on Middle English literature in the Fall 2002 semester, especially John Paul Gomez and William C. Loehfelm, for their helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this essay.
1 My description of the text follows the introductory material supplied by its two twentieth-century editors: see The Gast of Gy: A Middle English Religious Prose Tract Preserved in Queen's College, Oxford, MS 383, ed. R. H. Bowers, Beiträge zur englischen Philologie (Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1938; repr. New York: Johnson Reprint Company, 1967), 11–17, and Mona L. Logarbo, “The Gast of Gy,” in Cultures of Piety: Medieval English Devotional Literature in Translation, ed. Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 64–84 (introduction and translation), 181–93 (abridged Middle English transcription); introduction at 64–71.
2Gast, ed. Bowers, 15–16. According to Jean-Claude Schmitt, Gobi was the author of a brief first-person Latin account of the miracle, written immediately after its occurrence, for the pope. The expanded, third-person Latin text was composed some ten years later. See Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society, trans. Teresa Lavender Fagan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 149–50, 162.