Amanda Hopkins, Robert Rouse, Cory James Rushton, Editors
Boydell & Brewer
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.