Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain

August 2014
192 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004120

Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain

Edited by Amanda Hopkins, Robert Allen Rouse, Cory James Rushton

eBook for Handhelds
An examination into aspects of the sexual as depicted in a variety of medieval texts, from Chaucer and Malory to romance and alchemical treatises.
It is often said that the past is a foreign country where they do things differently, and perhaps no type of "doing" is more fascinating than sexual desires and behaviours. Our modern view of medieval sexuality is characterised by a polarising dichotomy between the swooning love-struck knights and ladies of romance on one hand, and the darkly imagined and misogyny of an unenlightened "medieval" sexuality on the other. British medieval sexual culture also exhibits such dualities through the influential paradigms of sinner or saint, virgin or whore, and protector or defiler of women. However, such sexual identities are rarely coherent or stable, and it is in the grey areas, the interstices between normative modes of sexuality, that we find the most compelling instances of erotic frisson and sexual expression.
This collection of essays brings together a wide-ranging discussion of the sexual possibilities and fantasies of medieval Britain as they manifest themselves in the literature of the period. Taking as their matter texts and authors as diverse as Chaucer, Gower, Dunbar, Malory, alchemical treatises, and romances, the contributions reveal a surprising variety of attitudes, strategies and sexual subject positions.

Amanda Hopkins teaches in English and French at the University of Warwick; Robert Allen Rouse is Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Cory James Rushton is Associate Professor of English at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Contributors: Aisling Byrne, Anna Caughey, Kristina Hildebrand, Amy S. Kaufman, Yvette Kisor, Megan G. Leitch, Cynthea Masson, Hannah Priest, Samantha J. Rayner, Robert Allen Rouse, Cory James Rushton, Amy N. Vines

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Light Thrown upon Darkness: Writing about Medieval British Sexuality - Robert Rouse and Cory Rushton
Open Manslaughter and Bold Bawdry: Male Sexuality as a Cause of Disruption in Malory's Morte Darthur - Kristina Hildebrand
Erotic (Subject) Positions in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale - Amy S. Kaufman
Enter the Bedroom: Managing Space for the Erotic in Middle English Romance - Megan G. Leitch
'Naked as a nedyll': The Eroticism of Malory's Elaine - Yvette Kisor
'How love and I togedre met': Gower, Amans and the Lessons of Venus in the Confessio Amantis - Samantha J. Rayner
'Bogeysliche as a boye': Performing Sexuality in William of Palerne - Hannah Priest
Fairy Lovers: Sexuality, Order and Narrative in Medieval Romance - Aisling Byrne
Text as Stone: Desire, Sex and the Figurative Hermaphrodite in the Ordinal and Compound of Alchemy - Cynthea Masson
Animality, Sexuality and the Abject in Three of Dunbar's Satirical Poems - Anna Caughey
The Awful Passion of Pandarus - Cory Rushton
Invisible Woman: Rape as a Chivalric Necessity in Medieval Romance - Amy N. Vines


This collection successfully demonstrates the complexity of medieval sexual culture and would be useful for any with an interest in gender, sexuality, and Middle English romance. CERAE

Highly recommended. CHOICE

Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain, with its nuanced and carefully researched and contextualized literary analyses, offers a crucial counterbalance to what is still at times the prevailing, Foucauldian, view of the Middle Ages. SPECULUM

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