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Heterosyncrasies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t

Karma Lochrie
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Heterosyncrasies looks to the foundation of modern society in the Middle Ages to question the heterosexuality of that history. From the letters of Heloise to Lollard heretical attacks on the Church, to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and the Amazons of medieval myth, Karma Lochrie focuses on female sexuality in the Middle Ages in an effort to discern a diversified understanding of it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9740-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: The Heterosyncratic
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its sodomy decision more formally known asLawrence v. Texas.The State of Texas’s Appellate Brief had argued that the state law against sodomy was designed to “require adherence to certain widely accepted moral standards or ‘family values.’”¹ The petition filed by the Lambda Legal Defense Fund requesting the Supreme Court hearing likewise maintained that such a “moral” rationale amounted to discrimination against a “targeted group” in the interest of a “majority’s desire.” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion (6–3) that adopted some of the language...

  5. 1 Have We Ever Been Normal?
    (pp. 1-25)

    Warner might or might not be correct that contemporary American society is characterized by the desire for some kind of normal, but he is certainly right in suggesting that norms and normalcy are a modern and postmodern phenomenon. Once normal is recognized as a historical formation, another more urgent question, at least for me, is possible: “how long have we been normal?” If the effects of normativity structure our identities, desires, and citizenship, when and how did we get this way? A flurry of questions precipitously ensues from this second question: what were we like before we were normal? What...

  6. 2 Untold Pleasures: Heloise’s Theory of Female Desire and Religious Practice
    (pp. 26-46)

    Heloise may seem the most unlikely place to begin reconsidering medieval sexuality without heteronormativity, since she has become virtually identified with her desire for Abelard and the heterosexual love affair that ended in his castration and her entry into the convent at Argenteuil ca. 1118. Scholars have actually split Heloise into two figures: the romantic heroine who writes “in praise of erotic love” even when she is an abbess and in spite of Abelard’s failure to requite her passion; and the serious, educated abbess—Jeun de Meun’s “la saige Heloys”—who holds her own in the extended disputation of her...

  7. 3 Far from Heaven: Nuns, Prioresses, and Lollard Anxieties
    (pp. 47-70)

    Thanks to orthodox opponents of Lollardy, the story is well known. Sometime between January 27 and February 15, 1395, when Parliament was in session, an anonymous list of Twelve Conclusions, probably in English, appeared on the doors of Westminster Hall (and possibly, too, on doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral sometime later).¹ This anonymous document that condensed the Lollard critique of the medieval church may have been presented at Parliament; it may have been distributed. The only versions that have survived are those preserved in chronicle accounts and the refutations of Lollard heresy by Roger Dymmock soon after the list appeared....

  8. 4 Before the Tribade: Medieval Anatomies of Female Masculinity and Pleasure
    (pp. 71-102)

    The Renaissance discovered the clitoris, according to Katharine Park and Valerie Traub. Or rather, European anatomists rediscovered from Arab sources thecapacityof the clitoris for pleasure, and with this rediscovery female erotic pleasure achieved nothing less than “a new articulation and heightened cultural capital.”¹ The importance of this rediscovery is, as both scholars have argued, that it produced a significant shift both in the understanding of female sexual pleasure and in the discourse about sex between women. The Middle Ages, as Park notes, knew of the clitoris but was woefully misinformed on the subject:

    Although the clitoris as an...

  9. 5 Amazons at the Gates
    (pp. 103-138)

    Somewhere beyond Cathay in the Caspian mountains, whose geography earned them the name “the breasts of the West Wind,” lies the “lond of Femynye,” the realm that is “all women and no men” inThe Travels of John Mandeville.¹ Originally called Amazonia, this island received its new gendered geographical designation in Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Mandeville, and later in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. The name signifies not so much the absence of men in the kingdom of women as the refusal of the Amazons to abide rule by men, according to Mandeville. In fact, the Amazons hailed from a cohort of wives...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 139-160)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-174)
  12. Index
    (pp. 175-178)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)