Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 5170
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  • Title: When is a Bosom not a Bosom? Interpreting Medieval Eroticism
  • Source: Seeing Gender: Perspectives on Medieval Gender and Sexuality. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, King's College, London, January 4-6, 2002.. 2002.
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  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Eroticism Gilbert of Sempringham, Saint Sexuality in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
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  • Abstract: This paper addresses the question of how medieval and modern readers make sexuality in medieval religious writing visible and invisible. It was widely acknowledged in the medieval literature of self-formation that experiencing sexual desires might be inimical to masculine holiness. If such desires are such a pressing problem, it is imperative to identify them accurately. This is essentially an interpretative problem, which parallels a similar imperative and a similar interpretative problem for modern scholars. We may assume that sexual imagery in religious writing is intrinsically significant, but we lack a generally agreed code for identifying its presence. Interpretative frameworks for dealing with this problem include the theological and the psychoanalytical, both of which risk becoming undesirably self-confirming. I propose to address this problem using St Gilbert of Sempringham as an example. The Book of St Gilbert stages an examination of the problem in its account of Gilbert’s dream that he put his hand in the bosom of his landlady's daughter, offering both carnal and prophetic readings of this event. We are left with this uncertainty, mirroring our doubts as modern readers as to how we read the medieval erotic. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
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  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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