Our moderator, whose forthcoming task of synthesis I do not directly envy, has invited concluding comments from those who have posted to and followed the discussion. Having been indulged on numerous occasions, I shall be brief. The variety of evidence that has been adduced, however difficult its analysis, convinces me that the main concerns of our discussion would not have been foreign to medieval storytellers, jurists, theologians, etc. Many of the issues we have raised, even though drawn on occasion from contemporary agenda, are quite explicitly addressed, albeit from other vantage points and premises. Our topic was, in my judgment, not a spurious one.
My position on several key questions of the debate is summarized (not too cryptically, I hope) in my personal recasting of our title "Medieval Masculinities" as "Masculinity in the Middle Ages" (western European, understood).
Will Sayers firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Norman Hinton <email@example.com>
There are several different responses to this, including "how do you know?", which probably seems extremely silly to those who agree, but I would really like to see some evidence that these fields are "defined by men _as men_."
1)If I define something and happen to be a man, need that mean that I am defining it "as a man" ? If so, this suggests that humans of whatever
sex cannot think at all.
2) My field is literature, not history, but if the same applies, what does that say about all the women who have contributed to the field over so many years ? It seems to demean all they stood for and worked for. I knew many of these women -- one was my dissertation director -- and frankly, I resent your implying anything like that.
Norman Hinton firstname.lastname@example.org
From: David Townsend <email@example.com>
Kathy Garay's assertion that a historicization of men's experience and its representations is patently unnecessary, on the grounds that male-dominated discourse has already monopolized Western writing, both puzzles and angers me.
Puzzles me, because I find in her posting no suggestion that the task of interpretation involves the convoluted negotiations between ideology and the subject who speaks/ is spoken; that once we have identified the centrality of a gendered master-discourse in our texts, we are hardly done. On the contrary, this is only the real starting-point for an analysis of the complex ways in which _all_ individuals (including the men who ostensibly benefit from patriarchy, and who indeed remain responsible for the oppressions they inflict) are robbed of experiential integrity by the tyrrany of the Phallus. For men, at least part of what is at stake here is their enslavement to "the dominant fiction" of the phallus' equivalence with the penis, as Kaja Silverman has put it in _Male Subjectivity at the Margins_, a point also addressed by Charles Bernheimer in "The Phallus Issue" of _Differences_ and by Susan Bordo in the Fall 1993 _Michigan Quarterly Review_.
Angers me, because the denial that there is anything to understand about the constructed nature of masculinities consigns men and their experience to a realm beyond the possibility of transformation through reconfigured language.
If men indeed have everything to lose, and absolutely nothing to gain, by the scrutiny of their own positions in patriarchy, social change is hardly the closer for it. If, on the other hand, the fissures in the dominant discourses of medieval masculinity can be explored so as to make the modern reader more aware of the differences within the modern masculine self, perhaps men can negotiate a path between the Phallus and abjection and so, in that refusal of patriarchy, find a self that patriarchy, far from bolstering, has erased.
David Townsend Centre for Medieval Studies University of Toronto firstname.lastname@example.org
To return to medical explanations for a moment, an abundance of hair is definitely a sign of male sexual potency. Abundant innate heat and natural moisture cause hair growth; the same heat and moisture are necessary for ample semen production which in turn is linked to the hardness and duration of an erection. One does not, of course, wish to be TOO hairy; that would imply a waste of natural resources better used for procreative purposes. But the link between hairiness and sexual drive might explain some of the aspects of the "wild man" tradition.
One of my students once said that the manly medieval male was ideally "hot and hairy." It's probably not a bad assessment.
(Interestingly, physicians counsel that a fertile woman will have abundant pubic hair--indicating heat and moisture sufficient to conception. And if I might respond quickly to an earlier posting on foetal position: according to some medieval authorities, the sex of the unborn child can be ascertained by attention to which side of the womb causes any pain during pregnancy. In "The Merchant's Tale," for example, May complains of a pain in her side when she wishes old January to believe that she is pregnant. Chaucer doesn't specify which side she indicates, but the whole pregancy is a ruse at this point any way.)
Carol A. Everest
For me an interesting aspect of the valuable and entertaining Interscripta discussion has been that medieval masculinity is probably more a matter of role-playing than of birthright. With due allowance for the tendency of generalizations to exaggerate, or omit too many exceptions, especially over so varied an epoch as the Middle Ages, it seems that the Biblical "man looketh on the outward appearance" applied rather more then than now. The attitude expressed, for instance, in Steele's _Tatler_ 172 (May 1710) became current later, perhaps as a result of deeper introspection and interest in individual psychology than was common in the Middle Ages:
I am sure, I do not mean it an injury to women, when I say there is a sort of sex in souls. I am tender of offending them, and know it is hard not to do it on this subject; but I must go on to say, that the soul of a man, and that of a woman, are made very unlike, according to the employments for which they are designed. The ladies will please to observe, I say, our minds have different, not superior, qualities to theirs.The medieval tendency was to look for sex not in souls but on surfaces. As (usually) in modern cinema, where what you see is what you get, costume (here I include nudity, hair fashions, clothing, liveries, armour) to all intents and purposes determined gender. So if a girl wears armour, she "becomes" masculine; if Pyrocles, no mean fighter, in Sidney's _Arcadia_ disguises himself as a girl, he is renamed Cleophila and designated by feminine pronouns.
Hrostvitha's Dulcitius, smeared with the soot of the pots and pans he's madly embraced instead of the Christian virgins he was after, becomes a devil in his household's eyes, and is kicked down his own stairs. Robert of Sicily is transformed by an angel who impersonates him as King and dresses him as a menial, to punish him for pride. Margery Kemp, after fourteen confinements, reconstitutes herself as a virgin by adopting white clothing; when a priest forbids her to wear it, she silences him by proclaiming a dispensation from God. The church had a vested interest, so to speak, in not allowing women to dress or function as priests, and developed an essentialist view of gender which anti-feminist literature and manuals for anchoresses must have helped to promote.
Chaucer's pilgrims are, to the pilgrim Chaucer at least, what they look like, although modern critics are rarely satisfied to stop there. The pilgrims' costumes define them, in Chaucer's portraits and in the Ellesmere illustrations. The Knight's rusty armour and the Miller's white coat are more suited to their roles than to a pilgrimage along the road to Canterbury.
I conclude that people in the Middle Ages were more prone to take things at face value than we, who are taught to question everything, to read between the lines, to look below the surface, to take nothing on trust (like the rich American who retracted his offer of a generous donation towards the preservation of an ancient English church because the vicar prayed "Lord, we thank thee for sending us this much needed succour"). We want to peel the onion, and strip off the Hallowe'en masks, but tricksters in medieval stories often seem to get away with very transparent scams, and disguises in Shakespearean comedy are always impenetrable to the other characters. The point is not that Shakespeare's audiences could and of course had to be able to penetrate the disguises, but that they readily accepted the convention, however implausible. Thus in _As You Like It_ IV i, a boy actor can play a girl disguised as a boy pretending to be a girl: the complex expression of the blindingly obvious!
Many thanks for the discussion: I've enjoyed participating.
****************** BSLEE@Beattie.uct.ac.za ****************** Brian S. Lee Department of English University of Cape Town Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa
"Medieval Masculinities," now in its final hours, has taught us a great deal not only about the topic itself, but also about the potential of this type of forum. When Bill Schipper, Patrick Conner, Martin Irvine, Jim Earl, and I founded Interscripta last spring, we hoped that this would be the outcome: focussed, extended discussion, collaborative sharing of ideas, substantial work leading to publication. We find more and more that the memory of standard discussion lists is very short, and topics recur with different sets of participants, shifting randomly like casual conversation at a conference. Such is the purpose (an important purpose) of other lists. The purpose of Interscripta is different, and I dare say that our discussions will be much more memorable. Both those who participated and those who sat back and absorbed the material of this discussion will not soon forget the exchange of ideas that has filled the past six weeks. Furthermore, we look forward to reviewing Jeffrey's finished article before it is submitted to the journal _Interscripta_ for publication, a lasting contribution to the ongoing analysis of Medieval Masculinities.
Interscripta provides a unique opportunity for focussed, timely discussions of topics in our field. I would like to thank everyone who contributed their time and energy to this discussion. You make it all happen. I would also like to remind you that we are looking for promising moderators and topics for 1994. Please send suggestions or opening statements to email@example.com
From: butterfly on the temple bell <LIANGC@carleton.edu>
Not quite a summary of my thoughts on the discussion of medieval masculinities as a whole, but some thoughts that have been percolating through the back of my mind ... Yes, it is true that traditional approaches to history are "stud[ies] of 'high politics', diplomacy, militarism, political thought, constitutional law ... the investigation of fields defined by men (Garay)" -- but not defined by men as men. It has been defined by men as _human_ with women as something not or less than human. Women's history reads history through the experiences of women, experiences largely defined by "woman" or "female", where gender plays a large part of analysis. There is no comperable men's history. [It is interesting to note how this session of Interscriptia began with a discussion of "hero" / "heroicism", at trait that could be defined as "masculine", but has very little to do directly with the experience of being male.]
Perhaps, to be clearer: Feminists have developed analytical tools to examine, question, and otherwise struggle with "woman"/"female". There are (for the lack of a better term) "masculinists" who have looked at their own gender and realized that there needs to be a development of such an analytical toolset for "man"/"male". Not a duplication of those tools, but a *development* of those tools.
Women's history can be said to be a reaction to traditional history -- to the exclusion of women's experiences as part of the "human" experience. A men's history could be said to be a reaction to women's history -- to noting how women have addressed the exclusion of their gender in the "human" experience and noting their own exclusion.
NOTE - By no means do I advocate the pursuit of "separate history"; "women's history" and "men's history" are not mutually exclusive. The reading of history through the experiences of those who have traditionally been marginalized (whether it be gender, culture, etc.) is necessary. However, holding steadfastly to "history of other" is as blind as holding steadfastly to traditional history. Some of the impetous behind feminism is to gain the tools to break the "female" gender label, to reject its use when "female" was used to contrain and silence those who bore it; I'm waiting for similiar abandoment of other labels ....
- C. Liang Carleton College Northfield, MN 55057 Internet: LIANGC@CARLETON.EDU
From: Elizabeth Rowe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here is a response that is admittedly partial and biased: Two things struck me particularly about our discussion of "Medieval Masculinities." One was our reluctance to confront the theoretical issues that Joyce Lionarons raised at the very beginning, an examination of which I would have thought would be essential (no pun intended!) to any self-conscious approach to the topic. Despite Jeffrey's repeated invocation of Judith Butler, there were few connections drawn between the modern theorizations of gender that some of us were working with, the medieval medical and religious accounts of gender differences that we learned of, and the "default" assumptions that many of us brought to the discussion (e.g., that there are two biological sexes, and that biological sex determines cultural gender in almost every case, even more so in the Middle Ages than today).
The second thing was the general reluctance to contextualize and historicize. I realize that historicization is not the be-all and end-all of Medieval Studies, but I do think that our analyses gain in power and credibility when we take factors such as place, time, genre, and the author's stake in writing into consideration. For example, we had an absolutely fascinating investigation of body and facial hair as markers of personal virility and public power, but the evidence presented jumbled the early Irish with the fifteenth-century English, and the legendary with chronicles both more and less fictional. I would have liked to have seen some discussion of (for example) whether the Irish evidence was relevant to other medieval periods or places, and what the fifteenth-century English reception of the traditional cloak-trimmed-with vassal-mustaches motif was--did it still make sense to them, did it have to be reinterpreted in some way, or what?
I apologize if this sounds overly picky or critical--I do not mean to offend anyone, and I certainly realize that it takes even more time to write a historicized posting than to write a standard one! However, I was extremely impressed by postings such as Greg Rose's, which reminded me of just how different parts of the Middle Ages are from each other, and demonstrated how important it is to be working from the detailed knowledge of a specific milieu, rather than generalizing about "The" Middle Ages. Again, I also have a personal reason for thinking this; my specialization is Old Norse literature, and a) I would hate to generalize about the Middle Ages just on the basis of what I know about medieval Iceland, and b) I believe it is a mistake to generalize even about medieval Iceland on the basis of the sagas all lumped together. The sagas were written over a span of roughly two hundred years, a period during which Iceland's political status and civil well-being changed dramatically. Not surprisingly, sagas of different ages represent Icelandic history and historical characters in quite different ways.
To give an example relevant to our discussion, compare the depictions of Egill Skallagrimsson and Grettir Asmundarson, two rather monstrous warrior-poets who have figured in earlier postings. Egill we know from Snorri's _Egils saga_, which was written around 1230, when Iceland was still independent. Egill is a full-fledged mytho-heroic figure who interacts with other figures having the same level of characterization: the tyrannical king Eirikr, the just king Athelstan, the berserker Ljotr, and the rest. Because all the characters subscribe to the same ethical system--the aristocratic-heroic ideal--and becuse Snorri aspires to that ideal himself (he was delighted to receive a title from the king of Norway), the ethical system is not called into question. _Grettis saga_, however, is from the late fourteenth century, a time when Iceland had long been under Norwegian rule and had suffered economic and political impoverishment as a result. Here we see that the protagonist and the other characters do not share the same ethical system. Grettis is another mytho-heroic figure who subscribes to the traditional aristocratic-heroic ideal, but the characters of non-mythic proportions with whom he interacts subscribe at best to a moderated and pragmatized version of this ideal. Even Olafr Haraldsson, who as king is its foremost representative, has no place for Grettir at court, the traditional locus of heroes. Because Grettir's life is marked by misfortune rather than good luck, the reader sees his ideal as questionable, rather than that of his opponents. The authors of both sagas are making (different) points about the political relationship between Iceland and Norway as much or more than they are retelling traditional narratives. It therefore seems to me impossible to take Egill and Grettir as unproblematic representations of "traditional heroism."
I will close by (paradoxically) making a generalization about medieval literature based on my knowledge of the sagas: if understanding the historical particularity of the sagas is so central to understanding them at all, then I bet that the same thing holds true for the rest of medieval (and indeed all) literature.
Elizabeth Rowe email@example.com
As a celibate, Benedictine (Black) monk who wears a long gown but shaves every day, I found the discussions on "Medieval Masculinities" fascinating.
I was happy to see the variety of opinions and approaches to literary texts. Nothing, I think, could be more deadly than a single or "official" theory of literary analysis.
Although not a medievalist myself, as a librarian I microfilmed medieval manuscripts for six years in Europe for Saint John's Hill Monastic Manuscript Library (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Hill Library now contains films of 80,000 manuscripts written before 1600 A.D. If there is any way I can be of service helping to make these resources more accessible to any of the scholars who participated in this discussion, I would be happy to do so.
Best wishes to all for a full measure of the many joys this holiday season brings.----------------------- Dom Richard Oliver, OSB email@example.com Saint John's Abbey & University Collegeville, MN 56321-2015
firstname.lastname@example.org Dennis Grafflin / History / Bates College / Lewiston, ME 04240
As a hitherto silent participant, I thought I might chip in in response to Jeffrey Cohen's call for closure with an appeal for some middle ground between Hinton and Garay, that both of them might even be grumpily accepting of. My take on this moves back toward the Kimmel piece, but in more simpleminded terms than Townsend's retort.
I have been a quiet bystander so far, in that my field is early medieval [a problematic concept] China, but the issue raised here affects historians without regard to time and place -- as Cohen was presumably thinking when he forwarded Kimmel's comments. What does Kimmel actually say? A few things that I thought were non-controversial when I read them: (1) "virtually every history book is a history of men," (2) however, "books about men are not about men as men." (3) This somewhat obscure formulation is unpacked as meaning that such books are not reflective about the ways in which "the experience of being a man structured" the history that they are claiming to explain.
I'm grateful to Garay for her posting, which injected some desirable energy and concern into the mix, and I think that what she says is largely compatible with Kimmel. Her points are: (a) The inescapably "gendered nature of the traditional
discipline," [a version of Kimmel's (1)], (b) which creates an intellectual space "empty...of any women's
presence" which becomes the "ally and accomplice" of the "quest for manhood."
She regards this as equivalent to defining traditional historiography as "the investigation of fields defined by men _as men_," which would contradict Kimmel's (2), which is therefore condemned as "rubbish." My guess is that Kimmel would accept Garay's (b), but with a reservation that would destroy the equivalence that she is claiming.
The issue is one of consciousness of gender. To use a non-medieval classic as an example -- When W.L. Langer wrote _The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1902_ (pub. 1935), he was a man writing about the actions of men. However, even without going to the library shelf, I would venture that the work is not particularly reflective about the ways in which conceptions of manhood shaped European imperialism, at the same time that it is, in some sense, an "ally and accomplice" of the "quest for manhood." Kimmel, I am proposing, would point to Langer's lack of awareness of gender as an analytical concern, and conclude that he was therefore not writing "as a man," i.e., not writing with any awareness of the relevance to his project of dimensions of manhood that we now find relevant.
This reservation is crucial. If it is not made, and Garay is right to conclude that "it is therefore patently unnecessary to even consider 'injecting [male] gender into the standard historical approach," then we are left with the idea that we will have an adequate history of imperialism, once we have stuck the women back into it. Surely, Garay, when she is not simply tired, at semester's end, of one more posting about one more testosterone-poisoned brute, doesn't really believe that. If she does, she is certainly in a tiny minority among the feminist historians I am aware of, who overwhelmingly wish to problematize the entire business of male gender (even if they don't wish to take on the thankless task personally), and the sooner the better for all of us.
It's not really helpful for Hinton to criticize Garay for saying that men can only think what their sex allows them to think, and then to turn around and insist that his dissertation director was a woman, and therefore must have thought like a woman. If Hinton is correct that we can have thoughts independent of our genitalia, then it is certainly possible that his dissertation director, in the course of her (no doubt long and difficult) struggle for position and influence in the field, had thoroughly internalized "the gendered nature of the traditional discipline." None of us has to love every piece of gender-conscious scholarship, whether it is concerned with men or women or entities betwixt and between, and none of us has to welcome every innovation in vocabulary or methodology that such works might spawn, but I am enough of a Pollyanna to believe that we can all agree that the elevation of gender to the status of a significant analytical category among historians has raised interesting questions -- and what more can we ask of any initiative within the field?
Dennis Grafflin History / Bates College P.S. My thanks to all the participants in this and the preceding discussion. It's sometimes a pain to have to keep sweeping out my mailbox, but it always contains food for thought...
The one thought I would like to reiterate at the close of this discussion is that the motives underlying a man's relationship to other men in the period under discussion may not be as sexualized as they may appear to the modern mind. Not all societies have seen physical contact between one man and another as indicative of sexual desire, and certainly this link does a great deal toward repressing the expression of emotions between men. Perhaps we have this to learn from our subject: being a man is more than sexual, more than the phallus; a man can love other men without loving them sexually.
Thanks to all who have contributed. I have enjoyed the reading.
Gregory Aist email@example.com
I, too, have been a hitherto silent (but active) listener to the discussion on "medieval masculinities"; the combination of a rough teaching load this semester and illness has kept me behind the eight-ball. But I do want to thank Jeffrey and all of those who have been stimulating conversation over the past few weeks--this, indeed, is what I had hoped to find when I joined the virtual world of e-mail this past year.
I'd like to help wind up the discussion by returning to a thread which was mentioned some weeks ago but which seemed to die out in the face of more pressing or immediate concerns: the issue of gender and sanctity. My own work deals with the penitential manuals of the 13th and 14th centuries, and I had not to this point taken a gendered look at them. Now that I do, I find a curious mix of the clearly gendered (the Ancrene Riwle) type of penitential advice/handbook and the less actively gendered. Clearly priests were to treat men and women differently in confession (see Mirk's Guide to Parish Priests), and yet, when one begins to wash oneself of sin, one seems to approach something more like a gender-less state.
Is the state of sanctity something beyond gender, or is gender retained, or even reinforced, or feminine? I think of the Pearl-maiden, but other than Christ himself (who is sometimes quite feminized in depictions), I have a harder time thinking of late-medieval "masculine" images of sanctity.
Again, thanks to all, and my apologies for the sketchiness of this post; I'm scratching this out before the exams come pouring in . . .
Greg Roper Ripon College firstname.lastname@example.org
An eleventh hour (almost literally) last word. I am sorry to see this discussion draw to a close, for I have learned a great deal about different types of masculinity at various times and places during the medieval period. Although I do not speak the language of contemporary gender theory with any ease, I do see the sense of applying it to medieval examples so long as it enhances our understanding both of the past and of the present. To be sure, our understanding of medieval masculinities cannot be precisely that of medieval men and women. However, I have been persuaded by the arguments of Hans Robert Jauss, himself a medievalist, that it is possible with great effort to reconstruct the medieval "horizon of expectation" and so at least partially to recover the notions which formed and governed the identity and actions of medieval men. Having learned so much about men in earlier times and places as a result of this discussion, I am also more than ever convinced that Malory's Morte Darthur is a kind of summa of medieval masculinities, and not simply because of Malory's variegated literary sources, reflective of past attitudes, more importantly because in his own time these different types of men still existed, each with a slightly different 'ethos' or understanding of what was required to be a 'good' man: 'heroic' warriors of the Welsh and Scottish marches, upwardly mobile 'king's knights,' worldly courtiers already esconced at Westminster, local lords who scarcely ever left their manor or the shire, and a few genuinely pious men, like John Tiptoft who wore a hair shirt and bade the executioner strike off his head with three blows, in honour of the Trinity (he was being executed by the Lancastrians for his service to the Yorkist king, Edward IV).
I was glad to see David Townsend bring up Kaja Silverman's feminist reinterpretation and application of Freudian and Lacanian theory, Male Subjectivity at the Margins, with its exploration of the ways in which modern men can reconstruct their masculinity -- even within our modern, Freudian "horizon of expectation" -- and reject the traditional aggressive, heterosexual Judeo-Christian patriarchal model. Silverman's argument is that this model is predicated on a pretense, the pretense that, unlike women, men suffer no 'lack' -- this is "the dominant fiction" of the symbolic order which equates the Phallus with the penis. The general acceptance of this fiction means, of course, that women can never be regarded as the equals of men -but isn't that exactly what Aristotle concluded in his De generatione? Lacking the penis, women are 'misbegotten men'. Not all medieval thinkers agreed with Aristotle's view, but it did become dominant after Aquinas introduced it into his Summa theologica. And what it meant then is what it means now, i.e. that women could never be regarded as the equals of men. They might become men, by the grace of God, or pass for men in the right clothes, but they could not, as women, be as good as men. I think that is the primary basis for the definition of masculinity in the Middle Ages (I am reminded of the hebrew prayer, recited daily, "I thank God, who has not made me a woman). What is more, I think it explains at a more fundamental level than narratiave exigency why male heroes could not be married. A married man and his wife were 'one flesh,' bound together in a contract of mutual indebtedness (the obligation to pay each other the mariage debt) which implied basic equality. Whatever the Church had to say about a husband being the 'head' of his wife; she knew that he was also her debtor, now morally and contractualy obliged to "couch" with her.
"Medieval Masculinities" has now come to a close.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Deborah Everhart for her intitial enthusiasm when I proposed this topic, and for helping me to lay the groundwork for its successful launch; Bill Schipper, for taking care of all the behind the scenes technical details that kept the discussion running; the Advisory Board of Interscripta for giving me this opportunity to moderate a virtual colloquium; and most especially, the many, many contributors to "Masculinities" who shared their knowledge and enthusiasm with all of us. I think that we can all be proud of what we've accomplished here.
Over the next few weeks I'll be rereading the whole of the discussion, condensing the vast amounts of material we've generated into a coherent article. I'm still on the prowl for bibliography, and would be happy to hear (via private e-mail) from anyone who has suggestions about what form the article might take, and what issues need to be foregrounded.
It has been an immense pleasure to moderate "Medieval Masculinities." Perhaps I will meet some of you in person at the MLA convention. To all of you my warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a good new year.