Weston, Lisa. “Elegiac Desire and Female Community in Baudonivia’s Life of Saint Radegund” in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages (ed. by Francesca Canadé Sautman & Pamela Sheingorn), Palgrave, New York, 2001.
Palgrave is one of the most important academic publishers of work in the loosely-defined field of “queer history”, both monographs and collections such as the present work. As with the collection on singlewomen, I will be blogging all the articles in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages, regardless of their direct applicability to my project. And expect to keep seeing the various authors included here in other publications yet to be covered.
Weston, Lisa. “Elegiac Desire and Female Community in Baudonivia’s Life of Saint Radegund”
Medieval popular culture sometimes had a prurient interest in the sexual lives of cloistered religious people -- both the opportunities for a member of the opposite sex who snuck into an institution thought to be filled with potentially sexually frustrated partners, and the possibilities for homosexual activity in these definitively homo-social communities. Lesbian historians find convents fertile ground for slightly overlapping reasons. Both the opportunities and the anxieties inherent in a same-sex institution mean that considerations of same-sex desire and activity will be more concentrated in this environment. But women's religious institutions were also a concentration of educated and literate women who wrote and corresponded about their lives and concerns. So if collections like the present volume sometimes seem to put undue focus on religious women and institutions, it needn't be because they were a relative hotbed of lesbian activity (although some may have been) but because they are a hotbed of useful data.
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Like Schibanoff, Weston looks at the framing of religious devotions in same-sex imagery associated with the convent of saint Radegund. An episode in Radegund's Vita in which she encounters Christ as Bridegroom is turned around and echoed more strongly in Radegund’s relationship to the female community she founded, which is expressed in the language of desire and relationship. Within the female-authored part of her Vita, Radegund becomes conflated with Christ the Bridegroom in her relationship to the Brides/nuns who venerate her. This interpretation is clearly on the symbolic-cerebral end at the same-sex desire scale, but in the context of an all-female community, the license that this framing gives for same-sex internal desire is an important part of that continuum.