From: Elizabeth Rowe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following posting addresses three threads of our discussion of medieval masculinities:
1. Can heroism be historicized?
2. What can we say about the relation of heroic masculinity to the feminine?
3. What kind of masculinity does the overlapping of sainthood and heroism construct?
Beverly Kennedy has posted two long analyses of chivalry in Malory's _Morte D'Arthur_ that seem to assume that Malory's work serves as a relatively transparent, unproblematic window onto fifteenth-century English culture. I would like to supplement these by reading Lancelot's sainthood as inextricably involved with Malory's personal politics.
I suggest that Lancelot's spiritual instability--the one imperfection that prevents him from achieving the Grail--is connected not only with his political instability towards Arthur, but also with Malory's own political instability as a follower of Warwick, who switched his loyalties several times during the War of the Roses. In the _Morte D'Arthur_, Malory seems to be creating a world that increasingly resembles his own, in which the problem of political instability--both his own and Lancelot's--is reconsidered as a problem of sinful private desire that can then be "absolved" or "redeemed."
As the biblical _imitatio_ of the Grail Quest becomes more and more a chivalric _imitatio_ of biblical _imitatio_, scriptural discourse in the _Morte D'Arthur_ is steadily emptied of spiritual meaning, to the point where it is used simply as a means of valorizing secular and social "virtues." The characters' self-authorized construction of their social identities leads Malory to make use of anti-feminism to deflect attention from the instability of this project--that is, from the inevitable bias that results when the person who decides what is necessary for salvation is the same person whose salvation is in question. His strategy is to ironize the attempts of female characters to assimilate their lives to scriptural master-narratives, while simultaneously "justifying" similar attempts by male characters with an apparently transcendent success.
For example, when Elaine of Astolat is refused by Lancelot, she constructs herself as a martyr of love, and goes to great lengths to make sure that her death and funeral copy those of Perceval's sister, who sacrificed herself during the Grail Quest. The body of Perceval's sister was put into a barge and glossed with a letter explaining the adventure; Elaine writes her own gloss, leaves instructions that it be tied to her hand, and hires a boatman to insure that this public reproach to Lancelot reaches Westminster. One small detail turns pathos into bathos: once the barge arrives at Arthur's palace, a long time passes before anyone notices it!
Similarly, Guenevere entertains the possibility of constructing herself as a martyr of love when Mordred and his company surprise Lancelot in her bedchamber. Lancelot asks her to pray for his soul if he is killed, but Guenevere insists that she will not live long after his death-"but and ye be slayne I woll take my dethe as mekely as ever ded marter take hys dethe for Jesu Crystes sake." Like Elaine's death, which Lancelot's failure to feel the slightest bit guilty about renders meaningless, the queen's passing attempt at self-writing seems to be one of Malory's efforts to disguise the instability of the project of biblical _imitatio_ by associating self-authorization with feminine identity.
When male characters strive for sanctity, however, the results are quite different. Unlike the feminine martyr of love, Lancelot's miraculous healing of Sir Urry is a successful chivalric imitation of Galahad's healing of the Fisher King. (Sir Urry's wounds were received in a joust, the Fisher King's as the result of sin.) It is ostentatiously not self-authorized, as Arthur has to command Lancelot to attempt the cure. Yet unlike the case of Galahad's miracle, Malory cannot make Lancelot's restore the wasteland of suspicion and Oedipal struggle that Arthur's court has become.
Another example is Gawain's deathbed "confession." His theological sins, the cause of much condemnation during the Grail Quest, do not appear to lie heavily on his conscience; instead, his greatest desire is to make good his social "sin" of failing to be his brothers' keeper. This social "repentance" succeeds in redeeming him, as Arthur's subsequent vision of him confirms.
Finally, the problematic nature of Lancelot's sanctity at his death is revealed by the changes Malory made to the accounts of Lancelot's death in his sources. In the French _Morte Artu_ and the Stanzaic _Le Morte Arthur_, Lancelot dies of an illness caused by his life of penance, the result of his devotion to religious duty. According to Malory, Lancelot dies because in his sorrow he refuses food and drink, and lies "grovelyng" on the tomb of Arthur and Guenevere. As with Gawain, whose body is brought to honored public rest at Dover castle, a final sign of the social nature of Lancelot's "redemption" is his burial at his own fortress, rather than at his hermitage.
In conclusion, then, I would assert that the _depiction_ of heroism (if not heroism itself) can certainly be historicized. (I can post an argument for historicizing heroism in Icelandic sagas, too, if anyone is interested.) In the case of Malory, the conditions for repentance and redemption are shaped strictly by the secular and sociopolitical dynamics of the civil war in which he played an active part and for which he was imprisoned.
My reading of the _Morte D'Arthur_ also supports the position articulated by Laurie Finke, who earlier observed that male and female can only be constructed relationally, so that "medieval masculinities can only be defined as they set themselves apart from medieval feminities" (to quote from our moderator's weekly summary). Let me emphasize the active voice here; it is Malory who sets Lancelot's and Gawain's masculinities against Elaine's and Guenvere's feminities. Beverly Kennedy noted of Lancelot: "It was much easier to make him a saint..." My posting attempts to explain what his "sanctity" consisted of, and why.
Elizabeth Rowe email@example.com
To: Jeffrey Cohen <jjcohen@husc>
Will Sayers asks who needs heroes? An interesting question indeed. Though I am no expert in the field, I note that this question begs the question of continuity of heroism. What I wish to point out in this respect exists on two axis, both I will however mostly have to examine merely as questions.
Firstly, who writes heroes? What is the relationship between the hero and the narrator? If my memory serves me correctly, there exist a number of recordings of heroic bards (eg. Talisien, I think) and skalds (Egil Skallagrimson if I am not mistaken). (Both of my examples are taken from narratives which probably are not strictly medieval though.) To what extent is the medieval hero mute? It seems, from my experience of such things, that heroes in medieval narrative do no speak. An obvious example in my mind would be Mallory's Lancelot, who is constantly hounded by the narrator, and remains silent on the manifestation of his heroism. What part does the relationship between narrator and hero play in the portayal of heroism? Anyway, my knowledge of texts fails me utterly, so I just leave this question with you, even at this late stage.
Another related question springs to mind, though. Will Sayers says: > In all of this, the young hero and the masculine is associated with > the dynamic, change and the need for change, leaving stasis and > continuity as the more restricted feminine field of action. As has been stated before in this discussion, heroism seems to be represented in medieval text as self-destructive. If this is in fact so, what prospect is there for the continued existance of a heroic society? Consider the Quest for the Grail in Mallory. Certainly this was a heroic quest, however, it ended up destroying the society (the indeed heroic society) Arthur had created. Counter to Will's point, a certain degree of static heroism may in terms of long term survival be a good thing. For a post medieval example of this static heroism, one may examine Victorian society, which postulated something inherently heroic in sitting around being patriotic and playing cricket. Thus I am led to the question, what part did heroic narrative play in this "static heroism", which was obviously evident in medieval society? (After all, the medieval noble seems to have considered himself heroic, without chasing too many giants or dragons) Heroism does not seem to have fit particularly well in the de facto politics of the day. In fact, as political mythology, heroism is surprisingly poor. Drawing on Roland Barthes' discussion of mythology as a political force in "Myth Today" (In "Mythologies"), whereas Barthes argues that myth naturalises political processes, and thus makes them static, heroic narrative does no such thing.
Anyway, just adding my 0.02 to the discussion,
P.S. As for qualifications et al, I just finished a degree in Computer Science, and have never taken any formal course in any Medieval Studies.**********************************************************************Peter van Heusden Networks for the people! UUCP: firstname.lastname@example.org Fidonet: 5:7102/116.7
From: "Daniel F. Melia" <email@example.com>
Peter brings up hero-bards. Interesting types, but in both the examples he gives, Egil Skallagrimsson and Taliesen, he is talking about legendary literary figures not "first person" warrior-bards [though we may have some such poems from Welsh, e.g. "The Eagle of Pengwrn," none can with any certainty be ascribed to any actual Taliesen]. This raises another question, though, of why some cultures have such figures, "heroes of memorialization," and others do not. I have no easy answer, though it may have something to do with their traditional social function of buttressing the dynastic status quo in genuinely oral societies.
Last week I posted about the ways in which castration and gender anxiety haunt the writings of the irascible Liudprand of Cremona. After leading a discussion on Liudprand and conversing about the subject with my teaching partner in the course, Bruce Venarde, I've come to a different conclusion about the function of sex, gender, and the body in the Antapodosis and, especially, the Embassy to Constantinople.
Gender for Liudprand has as much to do with nationality as anatomy. That which is foreign becomes that which is deficient and (by a familiar leap of logic) that which is feminine. The nasty Byzantines who treated Liudprand so poorly (who in fact femininized *him,* taunting him with the nickname 'Holy Mother') become a nation of eunuchs: all missing something, the essence of true manhood that resides back home. Liudprand is merciless in his transformative rhetoric of representation: from the feminine the Greeks slip into the monstrous, so that the Emperor becomes "a monstrosity of a man, a dwarf, fat-headed with tiny mole's eyes;...disgraced by a neck scarcely an inch long; piglike by reason of the bristles on his head; in color an Ethiopian."
Masculinity and femininity are terms that construct bodies personal and national. Edward Said has written about East-West relations along these lines in _Orientalism_: in Said's interpretation the East is depicted as seductive, enticing - ready to be conquered by the hypermasculine West. In Liudprand's vision the East is a culturally repulsive place, a deficient body made monstrous by the fact that it is fully neither masculine nor feminine, but something in between, something characterized by lack.
Are there other instances in the Middle Ages of gender set loose from the physical body?
From: Toch Michael <toch@HUM.HUJI.AC.IL>
Into the 5th week of discussions on medieval masculinities and sexual identity, I would like to invite the participants to look back at the very first posting by J. Cohen. Obviously, one needs to get started, and we all know that happy moment when we find the phrase that sets us off in media res. Yet, everything we write tells us something about ourselves. Let me ask what Jeffrey's opener tells us about the culture in which such discussions on such topics are possible.
1) Halloween in America: the gear is plastic, ready bought, and to be discarded (my mother in law at the kibbutz still is the keeper of the community's costume chest for Purim, yet none of the kibbutz children care to use the old costumes, and least of them her grandchildren who live in town). So this appears to be a first layer of a mislaid identity.
2) "Underneath is not the Self they (the Cambridge Mass. children) expected to find ... as each one (of the costumes) is peeled off, the suspicion arises that there is nothing at the center, or that the center will never be reached." Now what does this mean? Are we into alienation for the intellectual fun of it, or is there a such genuine fear built into our (Western? American?) culture? I sincerely wish to know what sort of discourse can indeed be safely grounded on a feeling of nothingness concerning one's own identity.
3) "Truly a Halloween terror": Why is it that I get the distinct feeling that so much of the imaginary of this discourse uses props of the film industry - the general feeling of horror (on Elm Street?), the quiet street getting dark; filled with small children in bright plastic attire; the peeling off of layers, an action which we are by now getting accustomed to by special effects.
4) and finally: why sexual identity? Is our own sexual identity (or any other identity for the same token) really that unstable that we feel compelled to project our fears onto medieval society, that we feel free to deconstruct both texts and the historical understanding of generations of scholars in order to prop up our own concerns? Are we really free to do so? Why is it that we need a very complicated syntax to latch our own fears onto others long dead?
Michael Toch, Dept. of History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey's posting reminds me that Guibert de Nogent, with no connection to Byzantium, also suffered castration anxiety. Is there a trend here? Any other examples?Judy Abbott Abbottj@sonoma.edu
From: Bruce Venarde <venarde@husc4> To: Jeffrey Cohen <jjcohen@husc4>
It's perhaps worth noting that heroic sanctity is not the exclusive preserve of men, at least in the mind of Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, a 10th-century Saxon nun. Two of Hrotswitha's plays depict the martyrdom of a trio of virgin sisters. In each case, a pagan emperor tries to get them to sacrifice to the pagan gods because their militant Christianity is a threat to the established social order. It matters very much that they are women: one set of sisters refuse marriage, and the others are the daughters, ages 12, 10, and 8, of a matron who is converting Roman wives who in turn deprive their pagan husbands of sexual favors. The emperors and their subordinates are mocked by their prisoners and duped by miracles. Indeed, the girls and women are not slow to point out what fools these men are. (Some of my students admit to feeling a little sorry for the beleaguered Hadrian in "Sapientia.") In both plays, the last survivor jeers at her adversaries' weakness -- tricked and obstructed at every turn, they end up using physical violence and brutality against defenseless women in order to preserve their affronted dignity. So much for warrior heroism.
The scenario is quite different in a third play. The plot revolves around the holy hermit Paphnutius, who persuades a notorious prostitute to give up her life of sin and repent alone in a tiny cell, a kind of prison. Hrotswitha undermines expectations about sex roles and sanctity, however. The ostensible hero is eclipsed over the course of the play by Thais, the repentant Magdalene, who stays locked in her cell for three years. No longer frightened and despairing, Thais becomes calmly accepting of the magnitude of her sinfulness and of her fate. It is revealed in a vision (granted, significantly, not to Thais but to another hermit) that she will get a glorious reception in heaven. Paphnutius gets the last word, a prayer after the convert's happy death, but it is in the manner of an postlude, for it is Thais whose triumph is celebrated in the drama.
In these plays, women are determined and powerful, not despite being women but because of it. Hrotswitha's characters are NOT just male heroic saints in drag. When Hadrian orders his men to cut off the nipples of a recalcitrant 12-year-old, not blood but milk flows from the wounds. I can't imagine any abused male body which would be quite so powerful and rich in allusion. In Liudprand of Cremona (another text Jeffrey and I have taught together), women use their bodies to get power over men and that is bad. But in the dramas of his contemporary Hrotswitha, women use their bodies to get power over men and it is good, in the short term for the virgin martyrs, and, because sexual power offers her the opportunity for a specutacular repentence, in the long term for Thais. Do Hrotswitha's heroines have gender as well as sex?
Bruce L. Venarde email@example.com
From: Elizabeth Dachowski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Jeffrey Cohen <jjcohen@husc>
An important area which I would like to see more fully discussed is the role of rights of passage in defining masculinity. I would like to define "rites of passage" broadly to include not only formal rituals, such as what a squire must undergo to become a knight, but also less formal transitions, such as when boys begin to help their fathers at work, rather than staying home with their mothers.
My own area of study is tenth-century monasticism, so I will begin by describing the rites of passsage for a would-be monk. At the monastery of Fleury, for example, each novice wishing to become a monk had first to prove his knowledge of the *Rule* of St. Benedict. The young man then entered the chapter house, prostrated himself before the abbot, and asked the abbot and the congregation for permission to enter the monastic life. Once permission had been granted, the novice kissed the abbot's feet and then wrote out his profession of monastic faith (or someone wrote for him if he were unable to do so). [See Anselm Davril, ed., *The Monastic Ritual of Fleury*, Henry Bradshaw Society, London 1990.]
This ritual is elegant in its simplicity, and gives clear indications of the values of the (male) community which the young man (or boy) is entering. The first prerequisite is knowledge and understanding of the basic rules of monastic life. Next, by asking both the abbot and the congregation for permission to enter the monastery, the supplicant is emphasizing his understanding that this is a group enterprise, not an individual venture. The prostration and the kissing of feet emphasize the humility of the supplicant, a virtue which is essential to monastic living. Finally, by writing out his profession of faith, the supplicant is indicating that this is a legally binding act. (The provision of a substitute to write if the supplicant cannot is interesting--but the question of medieval literacy is a whole other can of worms.)
An interesting side-light to this process is that the new monks were often quite young. Abbo of Fleury, for exemple, was a *puer* at the time that he took the monastic habit at Fleury. In Abbo's case, the abbot took the opportunity to ask the boy's name, and to make a prophetic pun on it (Abbo is like abba, and Abbo eventually did become abbot of Fleury). [See Aimoin of Fleury, *Vita s. Abbonis*, c. 2, in *PL* 139.] This is interesting in that it suggests that the abbot did not know the name of the boys studying at the monastic school (where Abbo had lived for several years before becoming a monk). By asking the boy's name and then commenting on it, the abbot was further socializing the new monk into the community.
How does a boy's entry into the exclusively masculine community of a monastery compare with other passages which other young men underwent?
Beth Dachowski Dept. of History email@example.com Lock Haven University
Not castration anxiety, but rather castration relief, seems to have been suffered, or achieved, by the monk Helyas in the _Alphabet of Tales_ (ed. M. Banks, EETS 127, pp. 88-9). His would be an example of "ecclesiastically sanctioned heroism", as I think our moderator neatly expressed it, for in demanding the sanctity of celibacy, the church certainly imposed on young clerics a duty to resist temptation that required a heroic effort of self-repression. How far this can be compared to the heroism needed for the physical suppression of a secular enemy depends on perspective or circumstances, but resisting temptation is allegorized in martial terms from the _Psychomachia_ of Prudentius to the Morality plays.
Burdened by the care of 300 women, the susceptible monk Helyas fled, prayed, and dreamed that three angels "layd hym down, & one of thaim held his handis & anoder his fete, & the thrid with a rasur cutt away bothe his balok-stonys, not at it was done, but as hym thoght it was done." Asked how he felt, he replied that he felt relieved of a heavy burden. Then he awoke, and was able to cope with his duties without the irritation of any further temptation.Brian S. Lee Department of English University of Cape Town Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa
Bruce Vernarde's comments on the female heroes of Hrosvit's plays is a very interesting addition to our discussion of the heroic. Women martyrs were a significant part of the early Christian ideal. To some degree this is based on Jewish idealization of martyrdom during the long struggles with Greek and Roman overlords (Hrosvith's *Sapientia* is based on the Jewish peudepigraphon IV Maccabees, a story of a mother and 5? sons). But in the Christian tradition it takes on a special force: the glorification of martyrdom, and especially female martyrdom. The list of women saints in the old Roman Canon of the Mass (Perpetua and Felicity, Agatha, Agnes, Anastasia, Catherine -- I forget who else) is a list of martyrs, most of them virgin martyrs. Of course, as anyone who has read these martyrdom stories knows, there is a certain sadistic fascination with the suffering of these women whose breasts are cut off, eyes are torn out, who are beheaded - although I can't remember any actual rapes. Elizabeth Castelli has written a very interesting article about "the male gaze," Christian sadism, and women martyrs (soon to be published by the consortium on religion of the Berkeley area). My point is that these women "heroes" are 1) male-constructed (yes, even if Hrosvith mixes her sources in *Sapientia,* she's still using a long tradition), and 2) glorifying of the violence done to women. Quite different, I would say, from the male hero.
Ann Matter firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Toch asks:
and finally: why sexual identity? Is our own sexual identity (or any other identity for the same token) really that unstable that we feel compelled to project our fears onto medieval society, that we feel free to deconstruct both texts and the historical understanding of generations of scholars in order to prop up our own concerns? Are we really free to do so? Why is it that we need a very complicated syntax to latch our own fears onto others long dead?I should think that the answer entails precisely the reverse: that is, we live (at long last) in a time that acknowledges the cultural archaeology of gender (and other kinds of identity), and that what human beings have constructed, lo, even these many centuries ago, can be deconstructed, reconstructed, and at the very least reconsidered. It is not the case that "sexual identity [is] really that unstable"; rather, sexual (et al.) identities were never really all that stable in the first place, as the current Interscripta inquiry discloses, but we have for too long (re)acted as if they were. What we have now is the freedom to explore, historically, textually, archaeologically if you will, where these notions came from, how entrenched they were and must be now. It is not, it seems to me, a post-modern anxiety that is at work (or play) here but an opportunity to reconfigure what we have inherited as stone-cast.
(P.S.: I subscribe to two other listserve networks besides this one, and I can assure you that Interscripta is far and away the one most worth the time it takes to read through this goldmine of material. Play on.) Cheers,
Naomi Liebler email@example.com
From: Michael Uebel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jeffrey's question abt. medieval instances of "gender set loose from the physical body" prompts me to respond with some thoughts on Saracen monstrosity as depicted in crusade literature. I have been working for some time on specifying the nature of Saracen threat in the twelfth century and on the place of Prester John in the varied responses to that threat. I would like to sketch here one aspect of Saracen threat--intrusions into the male Christian body--that puts, I think, a spin on Said's notion of imperialism. (It's a longish sketch--in recompense for lurking so long.)
Perhaps no other set of images better dramatizes Western anxiety over the convergence of the interior and exterior--a convergence that inheres in the monster--than the images of bodily dismemberment universally used by propagandists of the first crusade. Originating in a late-11th/early-12th century letter allegedly sent by Alexius I Comnenus to Count Robert of Flanders, these images, deployed to evoke revulsion and desire for vengeance among the Latins, found their way into several accounts of Urban's speech at Clermont. In his appeal for aid against the threatening infidels, Emperor Alexius details some gruesome violations of religious, sexual, and ethnic prohibitions:
For they circumcise Christian boys and youths over the baptismal fonts of Christian [churches] and spill the blood of circumcision right into the baptismal fonts and compel them to urinate over them, afterward leading them violently around the church and forcing them to blaspheme the name of of the Holy Trinity. Those who are unwilling they torture in various ways and finally murder. When they capture noble women and their daughters, they abuse them in turn like animals [ut animalia].(1)Especially repugnant to a society dependent in no small degree upon taboos and hierarchies, Saracen atrocities in the Holy Land were assaults against the fabric of Western identity. What's most interesting here is the way that these violations of sacred space, functioning as metaphors for infidel intrusion into the Holy Land, are expressed in terms of bodily violations, monstrous acts opening up a vulnerable Christian body. Saracens are a shifting, intrusive threat to the sanctity of the Christian _corpus_.
In the 12th c., Christian emphasis on corporeal integrity and purity focused attention on the body as a site, a topography of licit and illicit areas. An elaborate system of analogies developed between the physical body and the political or collective body.(2) The body often served as a map onto which were projected political and religious hierarchies--Humbert of Moyenmoutier's _Adverus simoniacos_ (1057) and John of Salisbury's _Policraticus_ (1159), for example, correlate political and religious rank with bodily location. Given the sets of relations figuring the security of hierarchical organizations in medieval culture, it is not surprising that any anxieties abt. religious and political integrity should be distributed across bodily landscapes.
Robert the Monk and Guibert of Nogent, in their versions of Urban's exhortation at Clermont, are most graphic abt. the kind of threat Islam posed. The race of Saracens, writes Robert, has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until, the viscera having gushed forth, the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and deprived of territory so vast in extent that it cannot be traversed in a march of two months.(3)
To these bodily violations, Guibert adds a description of Saracen cruelties suffered by pilgrims to the Holy Land:
What shall we say of those who took up the journey without anything more than trust in their barren poverty, since they seemed to have nothing except their bodies to lose? They not only demanded money of them, which is not an unendurable punishment, but also examined the callouses of their heels, cutting them open and folding the skin back, lest, per chance, they had sewed something there. Their unspeakable cruelty was carried on even to the point of giving them scammony to drink until they vomited, or even burst their bowels, because they thought the wretches had swallowed gold or silver; or, horrible to say, they cut their bowels open with a sword and, spreading out the folds of the intestines, with frightful mutilation disclosed whatever nature held there in secret.(4)At work in these two passages of anti-Muslim propaganda is a cluster of anxieties, at once imperial, religious, sexual, economic, and epistemological. Robert the Monk is most clear abt. the analogy he wishes to draw between the limits of imperial geography and the boundaries of the (male) body. For him, images of cutting and penetration figure Christian territorial losses as the result of Muslim invasion. The Eastern Church and the Holy Land have "cut off" from the Western Christian world by the effects of Saracen "dismemberment." Robert multiplies detailed images of torture in order to convey something of the ways Saracens both imagine and enjoy unmaking the boundaries defining what is holy. The Saracens reduce the body to its utter materiality, stripping it of any religious significance and opening it up to the flux and chaos of the merely physical. In Guibert's vision of Saracen torture, the body's boundaries are manipulated for the purpose of examination. Whereas in Robert's account the Saracens' motives--defile and destroy--are radically anti-Christian, in Guibert's they assume an almost scientific tenor--dissect and investigate. Here the Christian _corpus_ is not only the object of inventive cruelties but that of probing gazes which turn the body into a place where something is hidden. Turned inside out, the body reveals "whatever nature held there in secret," and in the process is demystified.
In both descriptions of tortures in the Holy Land, the body in pain is objectified, turned into a thing whose boundaries preventing undifferentiated contact with the external world are annihilated by the Saracens. These corporeal boundaries, however, may be all that the Sarcens can dismantle--Guibert's remark that the pilgrims have _only_ their bodies to lose challenges the idea of total appropriation. That is, the Muslims can only penetrate and interrogate the body itself; they cannot penetrate the transcendental mysteries and meanings of Christian faith. Thus Saracen concern with materiality is set against Christian renunciation of the same--as in the moment when the pilgrims' callouses, the physical signs of their piety, are misrecognized as concealments of their riches.
The threat posed to the national/religious body is that of the monster, whose existence is defined by the disruption of boundaries, by the mutation and opening up of the Christian corpus, and by the blurring of the crucial division between interiority and exteriority. The monstrous other disrupts the Christian universe _and_ produces its limits--such is, perhaps, the paradox of otherness.
2. On the place of the body and the body as place in the symbolic representation of social experience, see Mary Douglas, _Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology_ (NY: Pantheon, 1970).
3. Robert the Monk, _Historia Hierosolymitana_, cap. 1 in _RHC_, vol. 3 of _Historiens Occidentaux_, pp. 727-28.
4. Guibert of Nogent, _Historia quae dicitur Gesta Dei per Francos_, lib. 2 in _RHC_, vol. 4 of _Historiens Occidentaux_, p. 140.
Michael Uebel University of Virginia
The recent discussion of castration anxiety, or de facto castration, opens an area not yet explored in this discussion. The exploits of the hero demonstrate what a man DOES, but they do not address what a man IS. In understanding the physiology of maleness, some light can be shed on whether or not a woman can be a hero. Women certainly can do what men do, although frequently the rhetoric used to describe their actions effectively masculinizes, at least for the time in which they are acting heroically. But women, by nature, cannot be what man is.
In medieval medical thought, highly dependent upon Artistotle, castration implies something far more damaging than simple amputation. According to Aristotle, loss of the male genitals, whether testicles, penis, either or both, precipitates a somatic change in the individual, turning him into a kind of female. Even the nature of the flesh of an Eunuch differs _in kind_ from the flesh of a physically intact male. The Eunuch's constitution becomes colder and moister, more like a female's, and he demonstrates female luxuriousness. Vincent of Beauvais says, for instance, that all castrated men are changed into the nature of females. Not only their body, but their soul is feminized so that they are little different from females (Speculum Naturale, bk. 22, ch. 25). Removal of the genitalia removes something that strongly defines maleness.
Heat is at the root of what it means to be physiologically male. Hot semen from the right testicle depositied (fortuitously) in the warmer right ventricle of the womb (generally considered bi-cornate, but some writers describe as many as 7 chambers) will produce a male foetus. This male foetus will possess a heart large enough to generate the intense heat necessary to realize maleness. Eventually, he will produce sufficient heat for semen production and the production of plentiful _Spiritus_ to facilitate erection and propulsion of the semen. The manliest of men has abundant innate heat, producing male children far more frequently than female. Hot, strong semen can impose itself on even a cold, unreceptive womb, and vigorous men engender male children.
The "effeminate" man, including but not restricted to Eunuchs, behaves passively in sexual encounters because the normal outlet for semen expulsion has somehow been short-circuited. Semen therefore collects in the buttocks, causing desire to be focused in that area. (Galen traces the route of semen from the testes, through the buttocks and then down again to the male pudendum (De Usu, Book 14). Constantinus Africanus likewises identifies the male posterior as the reservoir of semen (De coitu)). While men who are passive sexually are objects of some scorn (the pseudo-Aristotelian _Problems_ asks why effeminate men are ashamed to ask for sex), men who are sexually active, even in same-sex encounters, are still men. Isidore, for example, explains that men turn to other men for sexual gratification if their "natural" desire for women is thwarted. Hildegard of Bingen also speaks of weak men as sexually deficient:
"The wind in their genitals has little fiery force, for it is lukewarm like water that has hardly been heated. His two spheres, meant to serve him like a bellows to tend the fire, are stunted, underdeveloped and too feeble to erect the trunk, for they do not hold within them the riches of fiery power. However, such men can be loved in sexual embrace, where they desire to cohabit with man as well as women" (Heilkunde).My apologies for the length of this posting. I do want to emphasize that medically speaking at least, maleness is very much "peniscentered." The fear of castration covers the fear of being feminized; the contempt for the sexually passive similary mirrors a scorn for "female weakness."
Carol A. Everest Dept. of English The King's College, Edmonton, Alberta.
One of my students is working in tutorial with me on _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ (in the original ME - a very dedicated student). This poem is certainly one of the richest texts of the romance tradition in its meditations on heroism and gender identity, as the current critical attention it has been attracting attests (Carolyn Dinshaw, for example, will treat it at length in her next book). When we arrived at the part where the Green Knight contemptuously announces to the Arthurian court, "Hit arn aboute on this bench bot berdlez chylder" ("There are none but beardless children around this table," l.280), my student observed that there seems to be a link between one's facial hair and one's manliness; further, she told me about a study that had found male freshmen usually grow facial hair during their first semester at college, only to shave it off later (apparently when, after this act of assertiveness, they are feeling less rebellious - and have to return home).
I wouldn't want to take this kind of universalizing too far, but an intriguing link does recur between the length/amount of a man's hair and his place in society. Einhard mentions Charlemagne's public tonsuring of some of his rebellious countrymen; the Giant of Mount Saint Michael weaves a garment from the beards of the kings he subjugates; Arthur shaves Lucius' envoys as an act of public humiliation. Sometimes this act of shaving functions as a displaced or symbolic castration (we seem, over time, to be drifting back to the centrality of the phallus - Bruce Holsinger, would you like to post again?); always, when ritualized, this agressive act becomes public theatre which establishes a relationship of dominance and submission. The Wildman, on the other hand, is both hirsute and removed from hierarchical social orders (and therefore either threatening or alluring in his rugged individualism).
Just a few, tangental thoughts on a hairy topic.
From: "Stephen B. Partridge" <email@example.com>
I do agree with Elizabeth Rowe that it is important to historicize heroism, to remember that we are discussing texts written hundreds of years apart and in varying cultural circumstances.
Last week's posting about the last words of heroes in the sagas got me thinking. The prose sagas might be compared to works of historical fiction; they were built around some 'original' or 'authentic' material, but the heroic sagas concern figures who lived several centuries before the surviving copies of the sagas were written, and they clearly represent an accretion of many kinds of material around a 'core' that has its source in an oral tradition.
I am thinking , for example, of Grettirs Saga, which in its surviving form includes narrative elements taken from the Continental traditions of romance and fabliau, of the High Middle Ages. How far can we trust this saga as a record of a code of heroic masculinity that had an extratextual existence? Isn't heroic masculinity, by the fourteenth century, largely a literary convention?
To come back to final words. In chapter 45 of Grettirs Saga, when Grettir's brother Atli is killed, he says, "Broad spears are becoming fashinable nowadays." Are we to think that he or anyone else really saud things like that? And, even as a literary topos, hasn;'t this become decadent, a kind of selfparody, if heroes are given last lines like this? Although I have not looked at them again this week, I do not remember last lines of theis kind in the Eddic poems, which are older than much of the sagas, so even the literary representation of heroism has changed considerably over time within this culture. The sagas may represent an effort to memorialize or even revive a certain form of heroic madsculinity, but that effrot seems to me a sure sign of the tradition's attentuation.
I see parallels between the sagas and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. The poet of the Morte Arthure seems to have known the French 'romance' tradition, but to be rejecting its convetnions and tone, rather ruthlessly, in favor of the heroic, chronicle-type portrayal of Arthur that had dominated earlier. But he cannot entirely recreate the mood of Geoffrey or even Layaomon. Jeffrey Cohen has pointed out the relish the poem takes in describing the excesses of the giant of Mt. Saint-Michel. But the representation of Arthur seems to change too at this episode: before he takes on the giant, he jokes about going to visit the "saint"; I do not think that Arthur is remarkable for his sense of humor elsewhere in this poem or in the tradition. So too Arthur's lament for Gawain seems like the sudden intrusion of the romance mode, despite the poet's best efforts to exclude it sle elsewhere; the sudden outburst of emotion is as startling to us as it is to Arthur's companions.
These late medieval texts may look back to an earlier type of heroic masculinity, but they cannot help mixing that type with other models for behavior, and the result is a series of sometimes disconcerting shifts in tone.
Steve Partridge University of British Columbia firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeffrey Cohen's posting on tonsurial practices has pulled me out of the shadows, at least for the space of a brief posting.
Tonsurial practice seems intimately related to manhood among the Irish and Welsh. Jeffrey cites various sources in which shaving is an act of aggression. To this one could add the shaving of Ysbadden Chief Giant in "Culhwch and Olwen." Ysbadden must shave before he can marry his daughter Olwen to Culhwch. Many of Culhwch's tasks are related to gathering the necessary instruments. The story concludes
"And Cadw of Prydein came to shave his beard, flesh and skin to the bone, and his two ears outright. And Culhwch said 'Hast had thy shave, man?' 'I have,' said he. 'And is thy daughter mine now?' 'Thine,'said he. . . And then Goreu son of Custennin caught him by the hair of his head and dragged him behind him to the mound, and cut off his head, and set it on the bailey-stake (136)."This is just one of a series of related tonsurial episodes. It corresponds to an episode early in the text in which Culhwch's father sends him to Arthur to get assistance in winning Olwen: "Arthur is thy first cousin. Go then to Arthur to trim thy hair, and ask that of him as his gift to thee" (96). In the act of shaving this noble stranger, Arthur heart grows fond towards him; Arthur recognizes Culhwch as blood kin. Shaving is thus not always an aggressive act. Culhwch places himself in Arthur's power by submitting to the shaving. And Arthur admits their kinship by agreeing to shave him. As Faral wrote, after surveying a number of similar episodes, "la coupe des cheveux symboliserait, comme dans le cas de Pepin, une acceptation de paternite spirituelle" (252).
William Sayers' compendious and intelligent article on "Early Irish Attitudes toward Hair and Beards, Baldness and Tonsure" provides I think the essential context for these types of practices. Time and space allow me merely to quote from his conclusion:
"In archaic Irish society, hair and hair styles like, no doubt, much else in appearance and dress, were organized as a series of markers of sex, age and station. The conception of body hair seems to have been that of many cultures: female hair associated with the mysteries of sexual drive and fertility; male hair, especially as moustache and beard, associated with manhood and, as such, the special reserve of the aristocrat-- warrior, judge, poet, druid and king. Cutting the hair of the head marked stages in the growth of the individual, male and female (although evidence for the latter is scanty), toward sexual and legal maturity. Styling the warrior's hair as a fruit-laden tree, equine mane, spiky mace, in loose or wound plaits, or crested and tufted like the bellicose males of other species, with possible variations on and off the battlefield, some form of tonsure for priests, ribbons and plaits for scholars and poets--all created additional functionally related indicators. Craftsmen, farmers, menials were not permitted the ostentiation of long hair and beards that was the prerogative of the upper class (188)."To summarize, tonsurial practices play a key role in Celtic initiation narratives like "Culhwch and Olwen," for in this culture the manipulation and the adornment of the body is an essentially male prerogative (while seeing power as an integral component of masculinity).
--Steve Davis Carleton College email@example.com
From: "A. Young" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Until now, I have been a lurker on this discussion, principally because I've felt unable to participate. It has been based primarily on literary texts with which I was unfamiliar and conducted along lines of analysis which seemed impenetrable and produced conclusions which seemed to me, as a non-initiate, either blindingly obvious (however complexly phrased) or completely incomprehensible. It has also seemed to me to be entirely anachronistic in attributing completely contemporary late-20th century reactions to mediaeval people and late 20th century connotative and denotative meanings to mediaeval language. So it is with some fear that I even contemplate posting anything!
However, a passing mention was made earlier to homo-erotic passages in Rupert of Deutz' writings, which illustrates in a nutshell all my problems with this discussion.
The passages referred to are in book 12 of his commentary on Matthew. Rupert adds an excursus relating the charismatic experiences (in the form of visions) which had formed him as an exegete and influenced him to accept priestly ordination, despite concerns that the then bishop of Liege (his home diocese) was a simoniac. His immediate purpose is to answer a long-standing request made by Cuno, an abbot who had been a supporter and patron to Rupert in many difficult situations, that Rupert write down for him an account of these visions earlier recounted verbally. He had originally told Cuno about them because Cuno wondered about the sense of authority Rupert brought to his exegesis at the same time as he went about it in an unorthodox manner (Rupert's exegesis also seemed unorthodox to the school of Laon and its followers, the academic exegetes of the time, but they were far less sympathetic than Cuno!)
Rupert described to Cuno how, while brooding over the loss of his brothers and his sorrow at being alone to face the dangers of life, 'my eyes were opened, I saw the Son of God: while I was awake I saw him, the Son of Man, alive upon the cross. I did not see him with bodily sight but, that I might see, the eyes of the body grew dim and better, that is, inner, eyes were opened.' He remained all night long in prayer behind the altar in an oratory dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, embracing and kissing the image of Christ on the crucifix. Then he returned the crucifix to its place but the sweetness of the embrace remained with him and he remembered Ps 34.8, 'O taste and see that the Lord is good.'
But this first visionary experience did not comfort Rupert. He continued to be oppressed with fear and grief and found his only relief in prayer which increasingly focussed on the Trinity. His customary prayer, he said, became a simple invocation of the Trinity by name. Falling into a trance-like state on two successive mornings, he experienced a vision of the Trinity in human form. In this vision, he saw and spoke with two of the three Persons during the offertory of a mass being celebrated by a venerable bishop. One of his interlocutors is identified as Jesus, the other is not specified. At the climax of the dream, all three Persons together lifted Rupert up on a huge open book and one of them said, pointing to the relics of the altar, 'Fear not, you will be greater than these.'
The interpretation of this vision, Rupert seems to attribute to Cuno: 'There is no need for me to explain to your loving-kindness the opening of the book or the reason why the Person said those words while pointing to the golden memorials or phylacteries of the saints; many have often heard and agreed with your judgement of me, that God has truly opened his book, that is, the holy scriptures, to me and that I say some things better than many opinions of the holy fathers whose memory is worthily celebrated in the holy church and shines like gold....'
Although he could accede to this judgement of his charismatic gift with the eyes of hindsight, Rupert explained that at the time he continued to be troubled and uncomprehending. This second vision is followed by three more visions: of the Father, of an unidentified consoler, and of the Holy Spirit under two forms. In the second of these three (the fourth in the whole series), Rupert is told on the night of the feast of St Matthew by a man of venerable appearance that he will conquer in eight years. But so obsessed was he by the dangers of sin to the living that he could imagine no other way to conquer except by death and believed from that time on that he was to die in eight years.
The climax of the charismatic-interpretation cycle of visions occurred, not surprisingly, eight years after that vision. When Rupert did not die, he was finally open to the real meaning of his second dream, his divine gift of scriptural interpretation. Characteristically this moment of understanding and appropriation also took place within a vision, the sixth of the series, which took place on the night of Ash Wednesday. Something which he described as being like a talent (on the basis of illustrated Bibles, this probably meant something shaped like a disk or coin) and full of light descended from heaven, rested on his chest, and began to rotate. It poured forth light, whose substance was like liquid gold, until he was filled.
However, Rupert soon realized that he could not fully appropriate the gift of interpretation conferred symbolically in both the second and sixth of his visions until he was a priest. The understanding and acceptance of this new office was also expressed in visionary experiences, which recapitulate the themes and images of the first, second, and sixth visions. In the seventh vision, Rupert once again sees the figure of Christ on a crucifix come to life, embraces, and kisses him. This caused him to be filled with love for the priestly office and to consent at last to ordination. Soon after, he had his final and most unusual vision. In it, the figure of a man lying flat and stretched out comes down on top of Rupert. It literally makes an impression on him, as a seal impresses wax, but far more deeply than even very soft wax could receive an impression. He quotes in explanation 1 Corinthians 6.17: 'But anyone who joins himself to the Lord is one with him spiritually.' Now that he has both comprehended and appropriated God's gift of consolation and consented to become his priest, Rupert feels empowered to say that he is at one with God, yet another of his extraordinary claims of special status.
In what sense are these visions erotic, or expressed in erotic terms? I understand 'erotic' in this context to describe something which is intended either to express sexual desire in the writer/artist or arouse sexual desire in the reader/beholder. Is Rupert expressing sexual desire for Christ? I doubt it. I think he is using physical metaphors (embracing and kissing) to make concrete a mystical experience of devotion, but I have difficulty accepting that the embracing and kissing of one man by another is an exclusively sexual metaphor, certainly in the twelfth century. Is he trying to arouse sexual desire in his readers? I doubt this too. I think he is trying to arouse devotion, as witness the Psalter verse quoted, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good.' And I don't see how the account can be homo-erotic if it is not erotic in the first place..... Rather I think that Rupert, or rather our reading of Rupert, has come up against particularily 20th century taboos and conflicts.
It seems to me that one of the last taboos to remain in 20th century culture, at least in English-speaking North America, is that against physical expressions of affection or love between men, precisely because they have been viewed as indicative of homosexual desire. Now that the cultural taboos against homosexuality are beginning to fall, physical expressions of desire among men are becoming acceptable in certain circles at least. But the equation of physical desire with physical affection seems still to remain. I think we are falling into a trap here, equating physical affection with physical desire and then reading that equation back into the past. It seems a particularly modern viewpoint to equate all forms of physical affection with sex, but I am not convinced this is really so and I am certainly not willing to read it back into the twelfth century with assurance. I think our discussion says more about late 20th century English-speaking North American attitudes toward masculinity than it does about mediaeval masculinity and I regret that.
Dr Abigail Ann Young, Records of Early English Drama| young@epas.| Victoria College, University of Toronto | utoronto.ca|
Further to prior postings on hair as sex, gender, legal, class, geographical (you name it) markings, Robert Bartlett informs me that he presented a paper at the British Academy recently on the AngloSaxon evidence and that we might expect it shortly in print.
Will Sayers email@example.com
From jjcohen@husc Ukn Dec 5 09:39:56 1993
From: "Daniel F. Melia" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
2 items on hairiness:
1) the rather puzzling 9th cent.(?) Welsh narrative, Culhwch and Olwen which tells a strange and probably intentionally comic or parodic tale of an adventure in Arthur's court, has a good deal about shaving/barbering as a kind of text of manhood (getting the magic barbering tools from the magical boar Twrch Trwyth, shaving the "Chief Giant" & then cutting off his head). There is also some strange connection between pigs and kingship here. No conclusions to offer, but an interesting tale in that if it is parodic it represents a commentary on some tradition connecting shaving/barbering with heroic activity at Arthur's court.
2) Mary Douglas in her book _Natural Symbols_ uses relative hairyness as an index of conformity to whatever social norms may be (note the term _relative_ here!) in a cross-cultural way. She puts this on a proposed larger grid involving societal taste for orderliness. Interestingly, her scheme can include women, whose hair length or style of display can echo the place of various males on the grid.
3) (out of 2) An earlier discussion on Medtext about the existence of the notion of adolescence in the MAs elicited the information from Jim Marchand that for poetic purposes beardlessness was equated (at whatever age--maybe into the 20s) with being a not-yet-man; no special status for teens. This would conform to the GGK statement as a commonplace (I would guess) of courtly literature. Does it reflect anything strong in the society itself??
From: Mindy Young <email@example.com>
... semen from the right testicle depositied (fortuitously) in the warmer right ventricle of the womb (generally considered bi-cornate, but some writers describe as many as 7 chambers) will produce a male foetus.This isn't appropriately scholarly, etc., for the entire group, but I wanted to pass on an interesting tidbit for your entertainment. According to Japanese tradition (as garnered from television dramas, so take that into consideration), if a pregnant woman is heavier on the right side the child will be a boy. I was reminded of this yesterday while watching a drama set in medieval Japan ca. 1550. It would be interesting to know if this "sign" was organic or acquired from the West.
I would like to thank you and all those involved with Interscripta for the fascinating and thoroughly educational discussions you have brought to us. This is a wonderful oppourtunity for those of us outside academe to continue learning. I look forward to many more interesting postings in the future.
Mindy Young Bishop Museum Honolulu, Hawaii firstname.lastname@example.org
Summing up and glossing the latest work on Medieval Masculinities has proven especially difficult this time around: the posts have been so rich that it's not easy to digest them all at one sitting. I have in front of me a stack of about 40pp of downloaded material for the past two weeks, all quite excellent. Here are a few thoughts and impressions to keep in mind as we enter the final ten days of this discussion.
Dan Melia continued our previous thread on the fate of heroes by turning our attention to Irish "gessa," injunctions that compel the hero to perform or avoid certain actions; the hero is then forced into violating this compunction by choosing a public obligation over a private necessity - a choice often precipitated through the presence of a woman. Bruce Venarde further advanced our understanding of the relationship between gender and heroism by posting on Hrotswitha's female (rather than feminine) heroes, who rebuke traditional male heroism by refusing to be "heroic saints in drag"; Ann Matter responded that these women are still male-constructs, and glorify violence done to women (the S&M theme). Samuel Rosenberg complicated our discussion of "Heroes and their Friends" by introducing Galehaut, who competes with Guenevere for the love of Lancelot, raising questions about the relationship between male-male and male-female bonds of affection. Elizabeth Rowe took up the triply difficult task of relating heroism to history, femininity, and sanctity; by linking Lancelot's "spiritual instability" to Malory's conflating of chivalry with sainthood, she demonstrated some of the cultural/authorial pressures that shaped a specific (and problematic) manifestation of heroism. Beth Dachowski wrote on male initiation rites and admission to monastic communities, arguing that in rites of passage we see culturally specific constructions of masculinity expounded.
Using Icelandic sagas, Will Sayers explored the connection between heroic reticence and immortality: famous last words may be self-mocking, but they ensure that one's story is retold. "The anti-emotional stance of the earlier hero seems intended to leave no chink open to the enemy": the hero's armor protects his identity from more than the physical world. (The modern equivalent of this "armor" must be body-building, which transforms the entire male body into a carapace). Steve Partridge later linked last words and late heroic literature with nostalgia: is a heroic code ever a phenomenon of the here-and-now?
Why do heroes exist at all? Will suggests that they are "associated with the dynamic, change and the need for change, leaving stasis and continuity" (which are then gendered feminine). Peter van Heusden wondered about this compunction to movement (I wrote earlier that "Heroism is performative; it derives from action, and is always to be proved.") What does heroism do for the man who must stay put? "As political mythology, heroism is surprisingly poor": Is there an inherent problem in heroism, which offers a model for behavior but disallows its repetition?
I posted about Liudprand of Cremona's "gender anxiety" - the feeling of unease that seemed provoked by his inability to fit certain foreigners into an "either/or" conceptualization of gender. Are there other difficult cases, like eunuchs, who help us to read masculinity from the margins? Are eunuchs necessarily a marginal group? (Brian Lee wrote of castration in the _Alphabet of Tales_ and its blessed emptying of desire). Later I rethought my post on Liudprand and argued that sexual identity there was really a trope for national identity, then wondered about other instances of gender set loose from the physical body.
Michael Uebel combined both these thoughts with a Third Term that has uncannily reappeared throughout this discussion: monstrousness. The Saracen threat, he observed, was written as an intrusion into the Christian male body; masculine identity was depicted as under attack through forced circumcision; the representation of this menace ultimately collapses the distinction between personal and national identities. Carol Everest returned our attention to individual corporality once more with an excellent description of medical medieval maleness, which is "very much penis-centered." Are we back to essentialism as the gender model for the Middle Ages?
Some voices critical of our project have sounded. Michael Toch argued that our discussion tells us more about ourselves than the Middle Ages; he pointed out that the language behind our writing is cinematic (and therefore "American"?), and wondered if it was appropriate for us to explore the Middle Ages without exorcising modern fears and anxieties first. Naomi Liebler answered that rather than reinscribing our current preoccupations across medieval culture, we are using the tools of contemporary criticism to understand issues of great importance both to us and to the Middle Ages: "It is not a post-modern anxiety that is at work (or play) here but an opportunity to reconfigure what we have inhereited as stone-cast." Taking issue with an early post by Ann Matter (5 Nov), Abigail Young offered a positivist reading of Rupert of Deutz as an antidote to any notion that homoeroticism figures in his works. She then attacked what we have accomplished so far in "Medieval Masculinities," labelling it as "blindingly obvious...or completely incomprehensible." Would anyone care to respond?
Finally, we have been developing a thread recently on hair and heroism (Steve Davis, me, Will, Dan): really a collection of observations on how gender is marked by certain readable (and transmutable) signs within a given culture. Hair is only one of them - should we speculate on others?
My thanks to all who have contributed to date. I am very pleased with the progress that we've made together over the last few weeks. It is gratifying to see so much sharing of information and insight, so much collegiality and erudition. The time has come to start weaving together some of our loose ends, and to send off those posts we keep meaning to send but haven't yet had time to compose. Now is the time to unlock the storehouse and let it all out: time to make some final observations, time to let loose some ideas that haven't entered the discussion yet, time to cover as much ground as possible before the conversation (so enjoyable so far) comes to a close.