Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226169125 Published February 2015
E-book $7.00 to $44.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226169262 Published February 2015

Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages

Robert Mills

Robert Mills

400 pages | 11 color plates, 78 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2014
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226169125 Published February 2015
E-book $7.00 to $44.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226169262 Published February 2015
During the Middle Ages in Europe, some sexual and gendered behaviors were labeled “sodomitical” or evoked the use of ambiguous phrases such as the “unmentionable vice” or the “sin against nature.” How, though, did these categories enter the field of vision? How do you know a sodomite when you see one?
In Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages, Robert Mills explores the relationship between sodomy and motifs of vision and visibility in medieval culture, on the one hand, and those categories we today call gender and sexuality, on the other. Challenging the view that ideas about sexual and gender dissidence were too confused to congeal into a coherent form in the Middle Ages, Mills demonstrates that sodomy had a rich, multimedia presence in the period—and that a flexible approach to questions of terminology sheds new light on the many forms this presence took. Among the topics that Mills covers are depictions of the practices of sodomites in illuminated Bibles; motifs of gender transformation and sex change as envisioned by medieval artists and commentators on Ovid; sexual relations in religious houses and other enclosed spaces; and the applicability of modern categories such as “transgender,” “butch” and “femme,” or “sexual orientation” to medieval culture.
Taking in a multitude of images, texts, and methodologies, this book will be of interest to all scholars, regardless of discipline, who engage with gender and sexuality in their work.
Rachel Moss | Times Higher Education
"Masterful. . . . Mills uses the concept of sodomy as a sharp needle through which to stitch meticulous analyses of visual, literary, and historical sources into a rich tapestry that depicts lives and experiences that breached medieval social norms. . . . This sensitive, imaginative work is bound to become a classic among studies of premodern gender and sexuality."
William Burgwinkle, University of Cambridge
“Mills’s Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages is a tour de force of erudition, critical insight, and balanced judgment. Not since John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality has a single scholar working in gender and sexuality studies taken on such a vast array of data, genres, and languages and treated it with such wisdom and care. Mills is uniquely suited to the task: an art historian, a literary scholar, and a theoretical wizard, he combines like no one else in these three fields of expertise materials that he sees as complementary and essential to one another. The result is a re-visioning of medieval material in the light of twenty-first century thinking and the interaction between the visual and the textual.”
Pamela Sheingorn, Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, Emerita
Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages is an ambitious reexamination of the categories of sexuality and gender and the implications of the multiple ways in which they are linked both in the Middle Ages and today. This book single-handedly brings the discourse to a new level of maturity. This extremely stimulating meditation on the role of the visual in meditating about sodomy as a set of acts, ideas, and emotions overflows with productive rethinking; further, it models and encourages what has been too often lacking in this field, subtlety of thought and tolerance of ambiguity. Mills addresses directly and thoughtfully the challenges of working in a discourse the very terms of which are unstable in the present and makes his own brilliant and significant contribution. Mills’s study makes an extremely substantive and highly timely contribution to a major field within both medieval studies and contemporary discourse.”
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