Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 8591
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Sturges , Robert S.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Sodomy and Sense: Bodily (In)Visibility in the Gast of Gy
  • Source: Seeing Gender: Perspectives on Medieval Gender and Sexuality. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, King's College, London, January 4-6, 2002.. 2002.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Gast of Gy, Middle English Poem Ghosts Literature- Verse Miracles Sexuality in Literature Sodomy in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
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  • Abstract: The Gast of Gy is a rarely studied Middle English text (based on a Latin source) composed in the fourteenth century. It recounts a miracle supposed to have taken place in France in 1323, in which a dead man’s soul, temporarily released from Purgatory, returns to haunt his wife. The ghost engages in a lengthy dialogue with a local Dominican prior, and makes various theological points concerning the afterlife. Neither of the text’s two editors addresses the issues of vision and knowledge, especially of gender and sexuality, that lie at its heart. Much is made throughout of what the miracle reveals of God’s will, both to the bodily senses and to the mind, and indeed the parallel visibilities and invisibilities, corporealities and incorporealities, of the ghost and the Host (which lies concealed from view beneath the prior’s robes) are a recurring motif. These parallels are fascinating in themselves, but they also serve the strategic function of obscuring – almost, but not quite, completely – the miracle’s underlying motive: Gy is being allowed to haunt his wife because of an unatoned, unnamable, and unknowable sin the they committed together during his lifetime. Given this discourse of unspeakability, one might speculate that heterosexual sodomy underwrites the miracle itself: at the center of the miracle and the text, both of which are intended as revelatory visions, lies instead a refusal or concealment (physical and intellectual) of knowledge. The miracle exists, in fact, to conceal sodomy, and all the text’s other revelations point to his central absence. Sodomy’s unknowability thus becomes, in this text, the precondition for religious visions. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of New Orleans
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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