Department of History
University of Windsor
"The unexamined life is not worth living." Plato, Apologia 38a
I begin with a confession--the first of a number that shall be made by me, a medievalist, and by people who lived in the Middles Ages, medievals. My confession is that I am a voyeur. This is perhaps not too startling in a society inundated with hard and soft porn, infotainment exposés, supermarket tabloids and, inevitably, talk television. My type of voyeurism, however, is a little different in nature--I spend my time trying to peek into the sex lives of a society approximately 800 years in the past. More specifically, for the past few years, like the women in this manuscript miniature,(1) I have been exposing and gazing upon the genitals of medieval men. The fact that I, a female feminist medieval historian, can do this with a certain amount of impunity, is due, in part, to the dramatic influence that cultural studies, and its familiar, critical theory, have come to exercise in all corners of the academy. The situation can be represented by a cartoon portraying a witch of cultural studies with her feline familiar, critical theory, and the dressed-up goblins of the academy.
The relationship between cultural studies and medieval studies, and between critical theory and history, however, is not an easy one and certainly not one based on mutuality, although I would hazard that there is a foundation of mutual respect. There are tensions, however, in the dialogue between medieval studies and cultural studies. Taken to the extreme, for example, is the view that cultural studies is concerned with the contemporary world, not the past, and, so, holds no place for the medievalist. Indeed, this kind of presentism is relatively widespread in cultural studies circles.(2) Medievalists may be tolerated as something of a curiosity but the real action is in the study of the here and now, unless, of course, the witch's sentiments are more widely, but silently, held than it would appear. This presentism is inexcusably delimiting--but then again, what else would a medievalist say? Presentism is but one of the tensions that exists between medieval studies and cultural studies. Other questions include: Who sets the parameters? Is it cultural studies if I say it is? Or vice versa, can it be cultural studies if "they" say it isn't?
Another problem inherent in the juxtaposition of medieval studies, particularly medieval history, and cultural studies is the role of critical theory. Historians have strong reactions to theory.(3) Whether by training or by inclination, or even by intuition, the relationship between historians and theory is informed by the hermeneutics of suspicion. Historians--if I may permitted a gross generalization--worry that the application of theory results in the distortion of precious evidence, a squeezing of the rich, complex, complicated and contradictory evidence of the past into a tidy little predetermined theoretical framework. As Henry Ansgar Kelly explained in a recent issue of Exemplaria,(4) the journal of medieval cultural studies:
And, of course, my own somewhat playful, somewhat ironic agreement with this view is found in my self-consciously over-the-top title, featuring not only the obligatory colon, but also both the slash and the parentheses that signal cultural studies approaches.
While Kelly may have summarized the view of medievalists as interdisciplinary scholars, in the same issue of Exemplaria (1995), Patrick Geary presented a wonderful and succinct summary of why critical theory is of little interest to historians per se. Geary pointed to history's roots in a rhetorical tradition that values strong effectiveprose aimed to inform a wider community.(6) History, then, seeks transparency, whereas cultural studies and critical theory often appear to be self-consciously opaque and, despite protestations to the contrary, exclusive.
In their turn, many critics of history and historians have accused us of clinging to archaic and naive notions of objectivity and the study of the past as the quest for truth.(7) This is a fallacious accusation. Historians long ago abandoned some nineteenth century positivist search for truth. While still embracing the narrative form, it is a destabilized narrative; history now embraces multiple and conflicting narratives. Indeed, the historian's task can be summarized, in Lloyd Kramer's words, as developing "a 'dialogue' in which the autonomous past is allowed to question our recurring attempts to reduce it to order."(8) Far from clinging to outdated notions of objectivity, to again quote Geary,
To this I would add that historians are eclectic in terms both of the sources they use and the methodologies they employ. Interdisciplinarity is, to the historian, second nature. This is significant because, in a rather desperate attempt to discover a definitive definition of cultural studies, what I found was that it has these characteristics:
This has led me to conclude that cultural studies, when applied to the past, is but another name for social or cultural history, that is, history that examines social interconnectedness and power relationships, that searches for meaning from an interdisciplinary perspective and, in so doing, seeks to explain causation. Whew! is all I can say. This is exactly what I see my own work as doing and so I guess I do cultural studies and I don't have to add to my list of confessions, that I write under false pretenses.
I will say, however, that what tends to separate my work, and that of other medieval historians, from that of our critically-informed colleagues in literary studies, is language. Historians tend to avoid the high language of critical theory and cultural studies, opting instead for the common tongue. We/I write in the vernacular, which is not to say that we/I don't read theory and don't benefit from the insights of cultural studies. It is simply that those roots in rhetorical clarity, and the broader audience for whom we write, tend to inhibit historians from "speaking theory." In many respects, I suspect the difference is more apparent than real and that a quick check of footnotes will expose the theoretical fluency of many a historian.
So, then, what has cultural studies and critical theory done for medieval history? Among other things, cultural studies and critical theory have helped to shift the gaze of medievalists away from the formal structures of society, for example, the study of feudalism or the institutional papacy. By refocusing on the "the everyday and the ordinary," by examining power structures and social interconnectedness, the Middle Ages that we study now is very different from that of fifty or twenty-five years ago. There are new things to see in old sources, thanks to interdisciplinary methodologies and theoretical insights. I will give but one example to illustrate my point.
Since the beginning of the century, the insights of psychoanalysis, especially those of Freud, have resulted in our collective perception of the phallic symbol at almost every turn.
There is one aspect of cultural studies that medievalists, in particular medieval historians, need to take more seriously--the imperative to self-consciousness.(17) Now, again, I must confess that, while paying lip service to the importance of my own subjectivity in relation to my historical research, it was not until I approached this paper that I really, really reflected on the many implications of how who I am influences what I do as a historian. This is an interesting and perhaps surprising admission for a historian who has spent most of her career thinking about confession and examining aspects of medieval sexuality through the literature written to implement and regulate obligatory sacramental confession. Confession--that act of self-reflection and self-revelation--is as dear to the hearts of contemporary psychoanalysts, 12-step groups and talk show hosts as it was to medieval priests, confessors and inquisitors. And it is in confession that human beings expose so much of their sexual anxiety.
In large measure, the historical study of human sexuality is due to the pioneering work of French philosopher, Michel Foucault.(18) In particular, the first volume of his History of Sexuality(19) focused our attention on the development of sacramental confession in the early thirteenth century. According to Foucault, this innovation was responsible for the techniques of oppression and sexual guilt that characterize so much of the history of sexuality in western society.(20) The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that "All of the faithful of both sexes shall, after they have reached the age of discretion, faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed . . ."(21) Thus, henceforth, each Christian was required to sit down at least once a year and contemplate the nature and quality of his or her actions. For many historians, this innovation has been interpreted as the introduction of a particularly insidious form of social control, designed to elicit guilt(22) and to enforce adherence to a set of values determined by the clergy.(23) These values were developed and systematized in the summae confessorum and other manuals that appeared to assist the clergy in evaluating the relative sinfulness of various activities.(24)
Although the literature of confession, in fact, examined every area of human activity,(25) we tend now to associate it with the supervision and regulation of sexual activity.(26) It has been understood, as Foucault understood it, as contributing to the technologies of sexual repression and guilt that have moved seamlessly from the thirteenth century, through the introduction of psychoanalytic techniques in the late-nineteenth century and, I would suggest, into the penchant for self-revelation and purgation of guilt so evident when Oprah(27) was in her sensationalist mode and endures still on the Jerry Springer show.(28)
Something that is often overlooked in critiques of medieval confession is that the literature associated with it never presupposed as clearly a defined and articulated notion of right and wrong as do contemporary talk shows. While Jerry Springer's audience can decide immediately and decisively that the philandering bisexual transgendered polygamous prostitute is unfaithful when he/she sleeps with her/his roommate's best friend, medieval confessors tended to be more concerned with the ethical dilemmas and assisting the individual to self-knowledge through relflection on personal experiences and their circumstances. In a sense, then, confession was not repression so much as liberation through self-awareness, and the recognition of one's own individual identity.(29) Ultimately, the examination of conscience in confession led a person to think in new and highly complex ways about her or himself. There was no mindless set of do's and don'ts. Rather, individuals learned how to apply abstract principles to their own specific situations. In doing so, confession arguably cultivated among the laity something very dangerous and quite at odds with the conclusions of social control theorists. Confessors, in the process of trying to control behaviour and beliefs, helped the laity to develop skills of self-analysis and self-knowledge, skills that would allow them to understand themselves, think for themselves, and perhaps even reach their own conclusions. Confession, I would argue, developed ethical actors who learned how to place themselves in a mutable and ambiguous world. There is a sense that it was the Fourth Lateran Council and obligatory annual confession that disseminated widely and deeply into western culture the concepts of "know thyself" and "to thine own self be true," but we tend to like it much more when the urbane and secular Cicero (Tusculan Disputations) or Sakespeare (Hamlet 1.3)(30) said it, than when Pope Innocent III did.
I am well aware that this view of confession is very controversial and that some will be angered by it or think I am just plain wrong. My "rehabilitation" of confession is threatening because our society and many of us--whether we be atheists, recovering Catholics, feminists, gays or lesbians, aboriginal people or others with absolutely justifiable grievances against the contemporary institutional church--have a vested interest in secularism and in constructing the church as oppressive. I have the temerity to suggest that this is an anachronistic and essentialist view of the church, a view that constructs the church and its influence as immutable and transhistorical. Clearly, the medieval church and the modern church have little in common. Each occupies quite a different place in society and the medieval church exercised a completely different social, political, economic and moral role than does the contemporary church. I must confess, however, that just as negative evaluations of the church and confession may be rooted in negative experiences, so, too, my evaluation is based on my own subjective experience as a feminist, "on again, off again" Catholic, who constantly reevaluates her decision and has a healthy dose of scepticism, especially towards the authority of the clergy and the efficacy of confession. It is also this subjective experience, however, that leads me to impute to medievals a healthy scepticism of their own, that elevates them above the status of helpless victims of social control, who were incapable of thinking for themselves or judging the moral quality of their own actions. In other words, I think my own subject-position leads me to afford more dignity and agency to medievals than do many scholars who embrace theories of social control at the expense of the autonomous individual. And, incidentally, my own position as a liberal femininist is very likely at the root of the importance that I place on individualism and intellectual and emotional autonomy in medieval society.
There are other ways, as well, that personal experience has influenced my understanding of medieval society. For example, we/I live in a world filled with sexual anxiety, especially as it pertains specifically to male sexuality. Bill Clinton's alleged sexual practices and the distinguishing marks of his genitalia are the stuff of headlines. Male sexual anxiety surrounds us.
Now, Michel Foucault, Jeffrey Weeks and other scholars of the history of sexuality may have demonstrated successfully that sexuality is neither transhistorical nor natural(33) and Thomas Laqueur may have destabilized the notion of the body,(34) but I am struck by a number of similarities between medieval and contemporary concerns. Medieval men, no less than their counterparts at the turn of the third millennium, located their sexual anxieties in their genitals. Specifically, medieval men's sexual anxiety appears to have revolved around three aspects of genital activity: the variability of the penis, as seen in nocturnal emissions and spontaneous erections; the vulnerability of the penis, especially in terms of castration and impotence; and the penis as the seat of virility(35) and, thus, of masculinity. It took me a number of years of research to arrive at this schematic understanding of medieval male sexuality. Imagine my surprise when I tripped across an article in Mademoiselle magazine, written by a man, to explain contemporary men's relations with their penis to female magazine readers.(36) He summarized it this way: "There are three areas of anxiety: getting it up, keeping it up-and sizing it up." I am struck by the similarities between this contemporary man's understanding of male sexuality and embodiment, based on his experience of his own body, and my own purely historical and theoretical conclusions about medieval men.
My research on medieval male sexuality is based not only on the theoretical literature written to implement obligatory confession but also on sources that bring us closer to medieval men reflecting upon their own experiences of embodiment, not too dissimilar to that of the author of the Mademoiselle article.
For example, the great thirteenth-century theologian and bishop, Robert Grosseteste, provided great insights into his personal experience of embodiment in one of his many treatises on confession.(37) He admitted that:
He exposed his sexual anxiety, moving from guilt about masturbation to an acknowledgement of homoerotic attractions:
He compared himself to other men, evaluating his own temperament as somewhat cool and concluded that he, personally, was less likely to be sexually aroused than were other men (p. 150).
It is easy to conclude that Grosseteste's revelations of self were occasioned by the oppressive anti-sexual morality of the medieval church. But it is, I think, simplistic to leave it at that. Yes, the requirement to confession, and the sexual code which it enforced, rendered Grosseteste anxious and guilty. It also, however, impelled him to think about his body, its responses and his own sexual nature. He recognized himself not only as an embodied being, but also as a unique sexual being. He compared himself to others and was thus able to draw conclusions about the uniqueness of his body and its sexual responses to situations and stimulations that pertained to him specifically.
Medieval anxiety about male sexuality can be approached more generally, as well. For example, there is a deeply rooted fear of desire found in the Vita of Gerald of Aurillac. Gerald was a count, living in the world, seeking to reconcile the church's moral teachings with the realities of secular life. He tried to live as a chaste layman, something that was a struggle and a challenge. His hagiographer reports that Gerald suffered nocturnal emissions and was too embarrassed to let his servants clean up after him.(38) We are also told he was once so struck by the beauty of one of his tenants that he ordered her brought to him, fully intending to exercise his droit de seigneur. Only divine intervention, which rendered the girl deformed and repulsive, saved Gerald from acting on his lust.(39) The anxiety in this life is as much the hagiographer's as the saint's; it is society's as well as the individual's.
Other medieval men also reflected on their own sexual natures and did not reveal the same kind of guilt and repression as did men struggling for chastity. Peter Abelard, for example, thought himself quite a lover. He writes that he was confident; Heloise would not reject his sexual advances because "at that time I had youth and exceptional good looks as well as my great reputation to recommend me, and feared no rebuff from any woman I might choose to honour with my love."(40) There is an irony, then, that this proud lover was reduced to an object lesson of the evils that could befall men who exercised their sexuality. Nevertheless, even the castrated Abelard reflected on his own sexual nature as he tried to make sense of his fate, reminiscing about what sexual adventurers he and Heloise had been: ''[O]ur desires left no stage of lovemaking untried, and if love could devise something new, we welcomed it."(41)
All of these medieval men appear to have been complex and thoughtful. They didn't simply deny their bodies or repress their desire, nor did they implement, unquestioningly and seamlessly, the moral code that the church prescribed. Rather, they struggled with their flesh, they rebelled, they reflected on their uniqueness, they came to terms with themselves in one way or another as embodied sexual beings.(42) That all of this can be seen is, in part, because of the contribution of cultural studies and critical theory, and, in part, despite it. This reading of men's bodies uses traditional sources: the Latin texts of the hagiographer, the confessor, the scholastic. The sources require the traditional skills of the historian, the Latinist, the philologist and the paleographer before they can be read through the lens of cultural studies. Yet, my very ability to undertake such an area of research is, in many respects, due to the way in which cultural studies has thrown open the doors and windows of the academy, has made all subjects accessible and none taboo.
I will conclude with one final reflection on the role of cultural studies in my research into medieval masculinity and male sexuality. Insights about the social and culturally constructed nature and, indeed, the instability, of the body, have meant that I am just as qualified to study male embodiment and sexuality as a male scholar. Because we have "exploded the category of the natural," a late-twentieth-century man has no more and no less in common with a medieval man than does a late-twentieth-century woman. Arguably, neither subject-position is a help nor a hindrance, at least in theory.(43) I will confess, however, that my study of the male body has led to some very unusual experiences: for example, the day I went hunting for a popular text on male physiology I baffled and embarrassed the bookstore clerk. And some of my male friends have finally recovered from the shock of my occasionally bewildering and definitely intrusive queries, all of which begin, "Tell me, is it really true that ...?" followed by a question that most men, I gather, expect only from their urologist. This very act of asking for the first-hand witness of the male experience of embodiment, however, shows something of the limits of the notion of cultural construction. Yes, medieval bodies were believed to be different from ours, yet there is an immutable and transhistorical aspect to embodiment, an enduring biological nature that allows me to ask questions and find insights into the past, mediated through the experience of twentieth-century men.(44)
This paradox illustrates both the benefits and the limitations of cultural studies and critical theory when applied to the study of medieval history. Certainly, cultural studies has helped to open new areas for research and theory has helped historians to read old sources in new ways. Ultimately, however, theory cannot replace evidence nor cultural studies the traditional methodologies of the medievalist. In order to make use of the insights afforded by these developments medievalists will continue to need their traditional linguistic and other skills. And in order to disseminate their new and innovative conclusions, gleaned with the help of cultural studies, historians will continue to use the vernacular. This can be a productive relationship, but it is not one without its tensions.
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1. See the miniature in the initial capital of Incipit, Causa 33, Gratian, Decretum, MS W.133, fol. 277. Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. In Causa 33 Gratian discussed a case involving temporary impotence caused by witchcraft. (back)
2. See, for example, the materials under the rubrics "Sex" and "The Body" at the Brown University Hyptertext Project on critical theory, all of which are exclusively contemporary. (back)
3. See, for example, the thoughtful discussion in Susan Mosher Stuard, "The Chase After Theory: Considering Medieval Women," Gender & History 4:2 (1992): 135-46. (back)
4. http://web.english.ufl.edu/exemplaria/index.html (back)
5. Henry Ansgar Kelly, "Introduction: Are the Middle Ages Theoretically Recalcitrant?" Exemplaria 7:1 (1995), p. 3. (back)
6. Patrick J. Geary. "History, Theory, and Historians," Exemplaria 7:1 (1995), p. 95. (back)
7. See, for example, Peter L. Allen, "A Frame for the Text? History, Literary Theory, Subjectivity, and the Study of Medieval Literature," Exemplaria 3:1 (1991), pp. 1-25. (back)
8. Lloyd S. Kramer, "Literature, Criticism, and Historical Imagination: The Literary Challenge of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra," in The New Cultural History, ed. Lynn Hunt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 103. (back)
9. Geary, "History, Theory, and Historians," p. 97. (back)
10. Graeme Turner, British Cultural Studies. An Introduction, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 2. (back)
11. Turner, British Cultural Studies, p. 5. (back)
12. Turner, British Cultural Studies, p. 6. (back)
13. Turner, British Cultural Studies, p. 6. (back)
14. Carolyn Steedman, "Culture, Cultural Studies, and the Historians," in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 618. (back)
15. See, http://www.millersv.edu/~english/homepage/duncan/medfem/egg.jpg (back)
16. link to black & white version of "Cosmic Egg." (back)
17. Even now, few historians are as direct and forthright as, for example, John Clive in Not By Fact Alone. Essays on the Reading and Writing of History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), pp. 3-5. (back)
18. link to Foucault site: http://www.csun.edu/~hfspc002/foucault.home.html (back)
19. Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité, vol. 1, La Volonté de savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1976); trans. Robert Hurley, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon, 1978). See also the summary at: http://cgi.student.nada.kth.se/cgi.bin/d95-aeh/get.foucaulteng (back)
20. Throughout volume one Foucault stresses the importance of the innovations of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), in particular obligatory annual confession of sins. History of Sexuality, vol. 1, pp. 58, 116, for example. (back)
21. Canon 21, Omnis utriusque sexus in H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translations, and Commentary (St. Louis, Mo,: Herder, 1937), p. 259. See also: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/lat4-select.html (back)
22. Thomas N. Tentler, "The Summa for Confessors as an Instrument of Social Control," in The Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion, ed. Charles Trinkaus and Heiko A. Oberman (Leiden, Brill, 1974), p. 124. (back)
23. Andre Vauchez, Les Laïcs au Moyen Age. Pratiques et experiences religieuses (Paris: Cerf, 1987), p. 142. English translation, The Laity of the Middle Ages: Religious Belief and Devotional Pranctices, ed. Daniel E. Bornstein, trans. Margery J. Schneider (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 1993). (back)
24. Leonard E. Boyle, "Summae confessorum," in Les genres littéraires dans les sources théologiques et philosophiques médiévales: Défintion, critique et exploitation (Louvain-la-neuve: Institut d'Études Médiévales, 1982), pp. 27-37. (back)
25. It has been used to trace the endurance of pre-christian beliefs and practices by Aron Gurevich, "Popular Culture in the Mirror of the Penitential," in idem, Medieval Popular Culture. Problems of Belief and Perception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 78-103. John Baldwin has used this literature to uncover the social milieu and values of urban and academic elites in Masters, Princes and Merchants. The Social Views of Peter the Chanter and his Circle, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970). (back)
26. Studies of sexuality based on the literature of confession include Vern L. Bullough, "Sex Education in Medieval Christianity," Journal of Sex Research 13 (1977): 185-96; Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); and Pierre J. Payer, The Bridling of Desire. Views of Sex in the Later Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993). (back)
27. link to: http://www.oprahshow.com/ (back)
28. link to: http://www.universalstudios.com/tv/jerryspringer/ (back)
29. This is suggested, in a slightly less secular fashion, in Leonard E. Boyle, "The Fourth Lateran Council and Manuals of Popular Theology," in The Popular Literature of Medieval England, ed. Thomas J. Heffernan, Tennessee Studies in Literature, 28 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), pp. 30-43. (back)
30. link to: http://the-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/Tragedy/hamlet/hamlet.1.3.html (back)
31. See the illustration from the Customal of Toulouse, BN ms. Lat. 9187 reproduced in R. Howard Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies. A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), p. 142. (back)
32. See my forthcoming article, "Castration Desire. Some Reflections on Peter Abelard, Hugh of Lincoln and Sexual Control," in Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities. Constructing Men in the Medieval Society (New York: Garland, forthcoming 1999). The illustration is from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 195, fol. 122v taken from The Romance of the Rose, trans. Charles Dahlberg (Hanover, NH: University of New England Press,1971, rpt. 1983), plate 40. (back)
33. Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1, especially pp. 17-35; Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and Its Discontents. Meanings, Myths and Modern Sexualities (London: Routledge, 1985). (back)
34. Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex. Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990). (back)
35. This latter is, perhaps, best seen in some of the marginalia of the Bayeux Tapestry, among which are found a number of gratuitous illustrations of naked men with exaggeratedly large penises. http://blah.bsuvc.bsu.edu/gifs/bt/bt07c.gif (back)
36. Frank Mattingly, "Man's Best Friend," Mademoiselle (July 1996), p. 16. (back)
37. Joseph Goering and Frank A. C . Mantello, "The 'Perambulauit Iudas ...' (Speculum confessionis) Attributed to Robert Grossetests," Revue Bénédictine 96 (1986): 125-68. (back)
38. Odo of Cluny, Vita s. Geraldi Comitis Auriliac, PL 133: 1.34, 662-3. An English translation is available in St. Odo of Cluny; Being the Life of St. Odo of Cluny by John of Salerno and the Life of St. Gerald of Aurillac by St. Odo, trans. Gerard Sitwell (London: Sheed and Ward, 1958), pp. 121-2. (back)
39. Vita s. Geraldi, 1.9, 648; trans. Life of Gerald of Aurillac, pp. 102-103. (back)
40. Pierre Abélard, Historia Calamitatum, ed. J. Monfrin (Paris: J. Vrin, 1959), p. 71. The translation is from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. Betty Radice (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 66. See also, Historia Calamitatum. The Story of my Misfortunes, trans. Henry Adams Bellows at: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/abelard-histcal.html and Abelardi ad amicum suum consolatoria at: http://www.georgetown.edu/irvinemj/classics203/texts/historia.html (back)
41. Monfrin, p. 73; trans. Radice, pp. 67-68. Link to picture of Abelard and Heloise: http://humanitas.ucsb.edu/depts/french/medwom/week2.htm (back)
42. For an exploration of the complexity of medieval ideas about "the body" and embodiment, see Caroline Bynum, "Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist's Perspective," Critical lnquiry 22 (1995): 1-33. (back)
43. For a female novelist's recent attempt to mediate masculine identity and male sexuality, see Carol Shields, Larry's Party (Toronto: Random House, 1997), especially the chapter entitled "Larry's Penis." Link to: http://www.mwsolutions.com/canlit/newrel.htm (back)
44. For a thoughtful discussion of the limits of the essentialism/constructionism binary see Diana Fuss, Essentially Speaking. Feminism, Nature and Difference (New York: Routledge, 1989). Significantly, most of this debate seems primarily to have occupied literary critics and feminist theorists rather than those who study the material body. See also Jane Roland Martin, "Methodological Essentialism, False Difference, and Other Dangerous Traps," Signs 19 (1994): 630-57. (back)
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