Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3817
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Burgwinkle , Bill.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Visible and Invisible Selves in Peter Damian
  • 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): Peter Damian, Theologian- Book of Gomorrah Sight Sodomy
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area:
  • Century:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: This paper begins with an examination of the metaphors of seeing in Peter Damian’s Liber Gomorrhianus (1049), figured as an intrusive, almost medical procedure. In the middle of his now infamous letter to the Pope, denouncing sodomy and asking for a centralized crusade to extirpate sodomites from the clergy and monasteries, Peter switches his rhetorical tack and begins to address the sinner personally, claiming to see in him what cannot be seen, to know him better than himself. There are at least four implications to this move that I wish to address. First, vision itself as a medium which penetrates flesh and gives the gazer a sort of x-ray vision into the ‘inside’ of the sinner; second, this ‘inside’ of the sinner as an effect of the performative gaze of the confessor/moralist, following Foucault and Butler’s discussion of the soul as an effect of discipline; third, the nature, and especially the gendered nature of this interior space, in relation to some influential twelfth-century discussions of sin as an effect of gender mixing (Walter Map, John of Salisbury, Orderic Vitalis); and finally, some of the implications on subjectivity of this process of carving out through vision, locating the feminine within the masculine, then emptying and rebuilding through ingestion of the body of Christ. For this final section I will be pointing out the curious ways in which Peter’s Liber Gomorrhianus and William of Saint Thierry’s The Nature and Dignity of Love produce and perhaps inadvertently advocate a kind of subjectless subjectivity that uncannily recalls Leo Bersani’s readings of Gide, Proust, and Genet in Homos. The notions of identity-less desire, desire unknown to the self, communities built upon sameness, and interchangeable love objects are clearly particular to Bersani’s sacred modernist trio, but his canny readings point up some of the ways in which even the most radically modern thinking echoes perversely medieval theology. [Reprinted by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference Organizers].
  • Author's Affiliation: King's College, Cambridge University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available