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Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 41a - On the Shelf for December 2019 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2019/12/07 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for December 2019.

One of the creative aspects of organizing a large "dump" of journal articles into a sequence of presentation is identifying clusters of common themes. This article would fit in several places within the group of articles I'm currently processing. I'll be running an extended set of studies of the intersection of friendship and romance in March and April. (Yes, I currently have blogs drafted up through April.

There's a certain type of book structure that always makes me wonder if the work has its origins in the author's doctoral thesis. (I mean, in the specific subject matter and organization, not simply in the themes.) I have no idea whether that's the case for Dinshaw's Getting Medieval, but it has the earmarks that raise that suspicion: a group of highly focused discussions of specific works, people, or events, tied together by--and featuring a conclusion referencing--an overall theme that operates at a tangent to the objective content of the material.

One of the minor themes in this chapter of Dinshaw is the tantalizing window that a detailed legal record can provide of what must certainly have been a more widespread phenomenon. John/Eleanor Rykener is a popular example of gender disruption and category challenge in medieval England, but as Dinshaw points out (in the book--I haven't had space to discuss it all here), there is tangential evidence for that probably "more widespread" context.

One tricky problem in trying to identify homoerotic practices in the pre-modern West is the rhetorical layer in which accusations of sodomy (or, at times, tribadry) were used as a generic insult or strategic accusation in contexts where actual specific sexual practices may have been irrelevant. Thus, in a context where two groups (Lollards and orthodox writers) simultaneously charge each other with sodomy, are we to look for shades of meaning and context in which both charges might be literally true?

Some works loom large in a historic field without necessarily providing new bodies of data for that field. In fact, to a large extent, one might view the writing of historians to divide (somewhat messily) into "the presentation of facts" and "the interpretation of the presentation of facts." With an additional category of "the interpretation of the interpretation of the presentation of facts."

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 40e - “The Mermaid” by Kathleen Jowitt - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/11/30 - listen here)

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 40d - Class and Models of Lesbian Desire - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/11/23 - listen here)

This concludes the summary of Cadden's book with a discussion of how medieval medical and theological writings dealt with the apparent contradiction of valorizing sexual abstinence while justifying sexual desire as a healthy response to the balance of bodily humors. The variety of approaches--including a recognition of different reasons for abstinence--can be attributed both to the need to justify these conflicting principles and to a recognition that human situations were diverse and might need to be addressed by different approaches to health.

I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt when I skip over chapters of books, or articles in collections, with the commen "not relevant to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project." I shouldn't feel that way. The entire project is an exercise in highly subjective filtering of content for what interests me personally. Sometimes chapters or articles aren't relevant to the Project but I find them fascinating enough to write them up anyway. And yet, I twinge.

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