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Language of Sex : Five Voices From Northern France Around 1200 (94 Edition)


Language of Sex : Five Voices From Northern France Around 1200 (94 Edition) Cover


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Publisher Comments:

This study brings together widely divergent discourses to fashion a comprehensive picture of sexual language and attitudes at a particular time and place in the medieval world.

John Baldwin introduces five representative voices from the turn of the twelfth century in northern France: Pierre the Chanter speaks for the theological doctrine of Augustine; the Prose Salernitan Questions, for the medical theories of Galen; Andre the Chaplain, for the Ovidian literature of the schools; Jean Renart, for the contemporary romances; and Jean Bodel, for the emerging voices of the fabliaux. Baldwin juxtaposes their views on a range of essential subjects, including social position, the sexual body, desire and act, and procreation. The result is a fascinating dialogue of how they agreed or disagreed with, ignored, imitated, or responded to each other at a critical moment in the development of European ideas about sexual desire, fulfillment, morality, and gender.

These spokesmen allow us into the discussion of sexuality inside the church and schools of the clergy, in high and popular culture of the leity. This heterogeneous discussion also offers a startling glimpse into the construction of gender specific to this moment, when men and women enjoyed equal status in sexual matters, if nowhere else.

Taken together, these voices extend their reach, encompass their subject, and point to a center where social reality lies. By articulating reality at its varied depths, this study takes its place alongside groundbreaking works by James Brundage, John Boswell, and Leah Otis in extending our understanding of sexuality and sexual behavior in the Middle Ages.

"Superb work. . . . These five kinds of discourse are not often treated together in scholarly writing, let alone compared and contrasted so well."and#8212;Edward Collins Vacek, Theological Studies

"[Baldwin] has made the five voices speak to us in a language that is at one and the same time familiar and alien in its resonance and accents. This is a truly exceptional book, interdisciplinary in the real sense of the word, which is surely destined to become a landmark in medieval studies."and#8212;Keith Busby, Bryn Mawr Reviews

"[Baldwin's] attempt to 'listen' to these distant voices and translate their language of sex into our own raises challenging methodological questions that will be of great interest to historians and literary scholars alike."and#8212;John P. Dalton, Comitatus

Table of Contents

Prefatory Words...


1: The Five Discourses

Pierre the Chanter and the Augustinian Tradition

The Prose Salernitan Questions and the Galenic Tradition

Andre the Chaplain and the Ovidian Tradition

Jean Renart and the Tradition of Romance

Jean Bodel and the Fabliaux Tradition

2: Participants: The Sociology of Sexuality

The Physiological Parameters

The Social Parameters

The Marital Parameters

On the Margin: Prostitutes and Holy Matrons

3: The Sexual Body

The Learned Body

The Body Concealed

The Body Exposed

4: Sexual Desire

Concupiscentia: The Theology of Desire

Delectatio: The Physiology of Desire

Passio: The Ovidian Tradition

Joie et dolor: Their Interplay in the Romance Tradition

Talent: The Fabliaux

The Supremacy of Desire: Noncoital Sexuality and the Desire for God

5: Coitus

Myths of Origins: Poets and Theologians

The Physiology of Coitus


Sexuality Modesty

Sexual Techniques

Nonconsensual Coitus: From Seduction to Rape

6: Children

The Physiology of Reproduction: From Conception to Birth

The Natalist Policy of Churchmen

Restraints on Fecundity

The Politics of Lineage: The Romances

Conclusions: Sexuality, Gender, and History



History: A Postlude

Appendix 1: Robert of Courson, Summa XLII, 31, 32

Appendix 2: Pierre the Chanter, Verbum abbreviatum (Long Version)

Appendix 3: Pierre the Chanter, Questions

Table 1: Fabliaux Containing Sexually Active Characters Classified by Social Group

Table 2: Fabliaux Containing Sexual Encounters Classified by Ecclesiastical Categories

Short Titles



Product Details

Baldwin, John W.
University of Chicago Press
Sociology, anthropology and archaeology
Human Sexuality
Sex customs
World History - Medieval and Renaissance
Edition Description:
Chicago series on sexuality, history, and society
Series Volume:
no. 8
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
2 tables
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » Medieval and Renaissance

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