Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4004
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Frantzen , Allen J.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Disclosure of Sodomy in "Cleanness"
  • Source URL: PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (Full Text via JSTOR) 111, 3 (May 1996): 451-464. Link Info target = '_blank'>PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (Full Text via JSTOR) 111, 3 (May 1996): 451-464. Link Info
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Cleanness, Middle English Poem Confessors Homosexuality in Literature Literature- Verse Sodom Sodomy
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
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  • Abstract: Cleanness, an alliterative Middle English poem attributed to the author of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," contains a graphic account of the destruction of Sodom. Elaborating the theme of cleanness, the poet advocates not only sexual purity but also right conduct and respect for God's will. Exhortations to clean behavior are conventional ; less expected are the poem's bold censure of "unclean" sexual acts, especially sodomy, and insistence that the clergy maintain vigilant surveillance of sexual wrongdoing. A poem with a salacious cast, "Cleanness" takes unusual risks in describing sodomy while denouncing it. Using Foucault's "rule of the tactical polyvalence of discourses," I analyze "Cleanness" in relation to contemporary manuals of confession, which avoid mentioning sodomy for fear that the word might encourage the act. The poem's description of Sodom concludes with a construction of the feminine that serves as a corrective to the sins of male lust. [Reproduced by permission of the Modern Language Association of America.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Loyola University, Chicago
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00308129
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