Guide Troubled Vision: Gender, Sexuality, and Sight in Medieval Text and Image

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See, for example, Camille, Medieval Art of Love, figs. Camille, Medieval Art of Love, p. Howard Hibbard, Michelangelo, 2nd edn. New York: Harper and Row, , cites this explanation along with another, p. Hibbard, Michelangelo, p. Michael J. If the panel does represent St.

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. Robert Hurley London: Penguin, The following paragraph is a summary of his article. Arnold J. Pomerans Berkeley: University of California Press, , pp. General Archives, Chambers of accounts, Acquits de Lille, portefeuille no. This information was kindly communicated to me via E-mail by Marc Boone in Although they differ iconographically, a few other fifteenth-century north- ern European works construct similar negative views of homosexuality.

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Sixteenth-century Netherlandish art also represented same-sex desire. See Saslow, Pictures and Passions, p. For a parallel example, see Wolfthal, Images of Rape, p.

Jahrhundert, 10 vols. For this print, see Jay A. Levenson, Konrad Oberhuber, and Jacqueline L. For another print that shows the gentleman and his servant out falconing, see Arthur M. Here the gentleman rides on horseback while his servant walks, again a clear class distinction. Lehrs, Geschichte und Kritischer Katalog, Jonathan J. Alexander notes that Emperor Frederick II described the same sort of lure. Otto Schmitt et al.

Geneva: Droz, —64 , ; F.


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Hollstein, German Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts ca. Jan Piet Filedt Kok, pp.

Seeing Sodomy: An Interview with Robert Mills

Richards, Sex, Dissidence and Damnation, p. This is not the only northern work to show this attitude. Though he is often cited as a key figure in the formulation of the sin of sodomy and as an innovator in disciplinary discourse, he is not usually considered an advocate for what I would call, following Foucault, a queer aesthetics of the self. It would not, in fact, be inaccurate to call them angry texts, Peter himself having confessed that anger was the one vice he could never truly extirpate. In the former, Peter asks the pope to instigate an extensive crackdown on the cancer then devouring the Church:.

A certain abominable and most shameful vice has developed, and unless it be prevented as soon as possible by the severest punishment, it is certain that the sword of divine fury will be unsheathed, leading in its unchecked violence to the destruction of many. In the latter, he denounces the presumption of those who would forego flagellation as a penitential practice:. What, I say, will you do when you behold Him for whose shame you have nothing but scorn, seated on the fiery throne of the tribunal of Heaven, and judging the whole human race in the dreadful judgment of His justice?

By what rash boldness or presumption do you hope to share in His glory, whose shame and injuries you scorned to bear?


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The Book of Gomorrah is a paradoxical text in which vision plays a major role. Peter claims the ability to see what cannot be seen [omnia visibilia et invisibilia], to see what others must wait until death to see, even to see what the sinner cannot see in himself.

Arrogating to himself such powers is an act of overweening presumption: he challenges implicitly the authority of the Pope, implying that he has been soft on sodomites and dictating appro- priate punishment. A brief summary of the points to which he returns again and again should give a taste of his argument:. The text is remarkable both for what it leaves out—almost any mention of gender, for example—as for its curious rhetoric.

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Or, rather, what takes shape as a result of his vision? The imaginary sodomite to whom he addresses his harangue is thus the silent subject for whom Peter speaks and whom he judges. This overtly sadistic and solipsistic scenario has Peter identifying with the gaze of the Other. He must therefore induce someone to identify himself as such, to answer his call, by providing the category within which that recognition can occur. The subject can only truly know that he belongs to this cate- gory through identifying with others who have previously self-identified in the same way.

In other words, Peter creates a category by claiming to have seen into the heart of his penitents, but he assumes that his subjects must already know of this category before he has defined it. Given that Peter sees himself as allied with the Law, but a Lawgiver who can stand above the Law, he can only imagine the sodomite as someone who equally stands outside one Law while being subject to another.

Peter clearly wants to see his ideal Christian community as occupying a similarly privileged position, that is to say remaining within the Law but also outside it, maintaining itself through extra-linguistic identificatory bonds that conform to his prescriptions. As agent of this Lawgiver, Peter sets out to regulate masculine desire—not by banishing it from the community, as if one could, but by channeling it, creating performative categories through which it could be expressed, and redefining the transgressive routes through which it might travel.

In spite of these innovations, Peter still presents himself as a theologian working within a doctrinal mode, his arguments based on traditional and authoritative texts. Thus he strays frequently from the doctrinal to the imagistic mode in an attempt to produce a more shocking, and therefore more memorable effect on the reader. Sodomy should induce physical retching, not just moral condemnation. Thus, in violating the body of the Church, the sodomite violates the collective body, the identity from which he has now been banished, his mother and his former self.

This is, in fact, one of the few allusions to women one finds in the Gomorrhianus, other than a brief dis- cussion on the relative wickedness of raping nuns and goddaughters as opposed to animals or other males. Femininity acts then both as a wall that demarcates the male collective from the outside, a sort of womb that gives structure to the community but which has no place within, and as the devouring she-monster which attacks that wall and rapes the men within, the very embodiment of sodomy itself: This utterly diseased Queen of Sodom renders him who obeys the laws of her tyranny infamous to men and odious to God.

She mobilizes him in the militia of the evil spirit and forces him to fight unspeakable wars against God. She detaches the unhappy soul from the company of the angels and, depriv- ing it of its excellence, takes it captive under her domineering yoke.

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender and Development

She strips her knights of the armor of virtue, exposing them to be pierced by the spears of every vice. She humiliates her slave in the church and condemns him in court; she defiles him in secret and dishonors him in public; she gnaws at this conscience like a worm and consumes his flesh like fire. She who had once been mildly and gently nourished on the milk of sacred wisdom at the court of the eternal king, is now viciously infected with the poison of lust and lies rigid and distended in the sulphurous ashes of Gomorrah.

This figure of the phallic female is then counterbalanced by that of the maternal male. Listen to how Peter, in one of his sermons, colonizes the female womb by placing it within the male body of the faithful: We must consider, dearly beloved, what a dignity is ours, and what a likeness there is between us and Mary. Mary conceived Christ in her bodily womb, and we bear Him about in the womb of our mind. Mary fed Christ when she gave milk from her breasts to His tender lips; and we feed Him with the varied delights of our good works.

Men may well conceive and breastfeed but their gender bending stops at sexual acts: these are always a corruptive force, extirpable only through violence. The Sodomite Within Up to this point, we could think that Damian conceives of sexual identi- ties entirely in terms of acts: the sodomite is someone who performs any of the four acts outlined in the first section of the Gomorrhianus. He assumes that such men are rec- ognizable to one another while escaping the notice of most, and that they can therefore more easily dissolve within the larger community and infil- trate even the highest echelons of power.

They are thus, like Peter, gifted with a sort of added vision, an ability to read the soul of their fellow monks, and to force recognition. But, unlike Peter, they are assimilated to Satan, who, having been barred from creation, must now insinuate himself, through illicit entry, into the body of Christ.

Elsewhere, however, Peter suggests that not all sodomites have such powers of vision. The solution he proposes is perfor- mative: call the sinner a sinner and he is a sinner. Subject him to ritualistic penance in the form of community ostracism and he will soon embrace that identity. Thus, specific recommendations are given on punishment: public flogging, loss of tonsure, besmirching with spit, confinement in prison, iron chains, and a diet of barley bread suitable only for a horse or mule.

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These will then be followed by a less conspicuous regime guaranteed to cement this identity: a further six months living in a small segregated courtyard in the custody of a spiritual elder, kept busy with manual labor and prayer, subjected to vigils and prayers, forced to walk at all times in the company of two spiritual brothers, never again allowed to associate with young men for purposes of improper conversation or advice. One could say that isolating the sodomite with other men in a confined space might send a mixed message, however Peter seems to think that sexual relations are likely to occur only between younger and older mem- bers of the community, or between two younger members.

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This is one of the most intriguing implications of his prescribed penance: there is no way to extirpate the possibility of sexual attraction between men other than to choose, somewhat arbitrarily, that it can only occur under preordained con- ditions and can only be contained by the penance he proffers. As Foucault might say, this disciplinary practice is then eroticized, both as it defines erotic pathways and points toward transgressive possibilities. Let us begin by looking at what Leo Bersani has to say about sadomasochism:.