Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Between Medieval Men: Male Friendship and Desire in Early Medieval English Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Between Medieval Men: Male Friendship and Desire in Early Medieval English Literature

Article excerpt

David Clark, Between Medieval Men: Male Friendship and Desire in Early Medieval English Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). xii + 229 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-95 5815-5. £5o.oo/$99-oo.

Only the second book-length study of this topic, its predecessor being Alien J. Frantzen's groundbreaking Before the Closet: Same-Sex Love from Beowulf to Angels in America (Chicago, 111., 1998), David Clark's study is an extensive investigation of an important but difficult subject. Clark seeks to examine relations between medieval men as represented in early medieval English texts in the light of five principles. These are, briefly, that the gap between text and experience may be wide (p. 1 2), that multiple and conflicting views of same-sex relations may have been held simultaneously (p. 13), that the same holds true of gender (pp. i4f), that the erotic and the genital need not be equated (p. 16), and, finally, that the question of where sexual and emotional relations coincide or diverge must remain open (p. 18). This, then, is a study that deliberately attempts to open up broad areas for questioning, and it succeeds in doing so through a wide-ranging survey that combines close argument with interpretative flexibility.

Chapter ? opens with a wonderful quotation from Bruce Mitchell on The Wife*s Lament stating, ? await with confident horror an overtly homosexual interpretation of this poem' (p. 22). The chapter carefully considers three Old English elegies commonly considered to treat heterosexual love, questioning previous critical assumptions. The second chapter discusses suggestions from classical ethnographic evidence of Germanic pederasty and same-sex initiation rituals, and questions whether Old Norse concepts that stigmatize only the passive partner in same-sex intercourse may have survived into Anglo-Saxon England. Chapter 3 surveys the linguistic evidence for this latter suggestion, arguing that Old English cognates of ergi are found in some contexts with an important gendered or sexual element, and proceeds to reread the Penitential of Theodore to examine, in particular, the term bc&dling as expressing the notion of the unmanly man. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.