1 See also the essays collected in Sautman and Sheingorn (2001), and for groundbreaking theoretical and historical work on the early modern period see Traub (2002). For materials directed toward specifically religious texts see J. Cohen (2003: 154-87); Wiethaus (2003); Dinshaw (1999: 143-82); Lochrie (1997); Holsinger (1993); Campbell (1992); and Lavezzo (1996).
2 Lochrie does not provide a full history of the image. An early, intensely erotic and eucharistic example can be found in Aelred of Rievaulx's "Rule of Life for a Recluse," a general guide to the religious life written, perhaps not surprisingly, for women. In meditating on Christ's body, Aelred encourages the reader: "Hasten, linger not, eat the honeycomb with your honey, drink your wine with your milk. The blood is changed into wine to gladden you, the water into milk to nourish you. From the rock streams have flowed for you, wounds have been made in his limbs, holes in the wall of his body, in which, like a dove, you may hide while you kiss them one by one. Your lips, stained with his blood, will become like a scarlet ribbon and your word sweet" (Aelred of Rievaulx 1971: 90-1; cited in Bestul 1996: 39). As Bestul points out, the passage brings together language from the Psalms and the Song of Songs. Although this kind of highly erotic devotion to Christ's wounds becomes characteristic of late medieval meditational practice, the example from Aelred shows that it has roots in mid-twelfth-century texts and practices. For further examples from fourteenth-century and fifteenth-century devotional texts, see Bestul (1996: 56-7, 59 and 62); D. Gray (1963); F. Lewis (1996) and Areford (1998). See also Camille (1994: 77).
3 Both Bynum and Lochrie cite Raymond of Capua's Life of Catherine of Siena (1327-80): "With that, he tenderly placed his right hand on her neck and drew her towards the wound on his side. 'Drink, daughter, from my side,' he said, 'and by that draught your soul shall become enraptured with such delight that your very body, which for my sake you have denied, shall be inundated with its overflowing goodness.' Drawn close in this way to the outlet of the Fountain of Life, she fastened her lips upon that sacred wound, and still more eagerly the mouth of her soul, and there she slaked her thirst" (Bynum 1987: 172 and Lochrie 1997: 188). Bynum, in reading the side wound as a breast and Christ's blood as milk, explicitly rejects a sexualized reading, whereas Lochrie insists that the maternal does not exclude the sexual. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that breast milk was created from surplus menses not released in childbirth. The association of the blood with Christ's side wound, then, ties it both to the vagina and breast milk, thereby enabling the threefold association of wound, vulva, and breast. On these associations, see Wood (1981: 710-27). For the highly suggestive and erotic visual images, see Lochrie (1997) and F. Lewis (1996). On the linguistic association of the Latin for wound and vulva, see Lochrie (1997: 189, 198 n. 26) and Riehle (1981: 46). One wonders about the relationship between these vulvic wound images and the blood-drenched Christ discussed by Hamburger (1997: pl. 1). For a warning against the dangers of assuming all penetrable sites are feminine see Rambuss (1998: 19-32).
4 This queering can also be seen in a text that Lochrie mentions but does not cite, Angela of Foligno's (c. 1248-1309) Book, particularly the Memorial, dictated by Angela to a Friar. In two places she discusses the wound in Christ's side: "In the fourteenth step, while I was standing in prayer, Christ on the cross appeared ... to me . . . He then called me to place my mouth to the wound on his side. It seemed to me that I saw and drank the blood, which was freshly flowing from his side. His intention was to make me understand that by this blood he would cleanse me." And later, she writes that "At times it seems to my soul that it enters into Christ's side, and this is a source of great joy and delight" (Angela of Foligno 1993: 128 and 176; and see also 246). These two passages are compressed in a highly erotic and homosexuated or queered reading by Luce Irigaray: "Could it be true that not every wound need remain secret, that not every laceration was shameful? Could a sore be holy? Ecstasy is there in that glorious slit where she curls up as if in her nest, where she rests as if she had found her home - and He is also in her. She bathes in a blood that flows over her, hot and purifying" (Irigaray 1985a: 200). For more on Irigaray and mysticism see Hollywood (2002: 187-210) and Hollywood (2004a). For other examples of "possibly queer female desire for Christ's wounds," see Lochrie (1997: 199 n. 34).
5 I realize that this is not quite where Bennett places the implausibility - for her it is the purported jump between religious representations and actual sexual practices between women that are implausible. But I think that behind her sense that religious representation tells us little about "actual people" lies the irreality of medieval religious beliefs for many modern readers.
6 Judith C. Brown's descriptions of the trial records concerning Sister Benedetta Carlini (1590-1661) suggest that one might in fact lead to the other. In this case, Benedetta Carlini's visions, in which she speaks as Christ and as a male angel, serve as the pretext for her sexual relationship with another nun assigned to care for her. As Brown explains, Benedetta's "male identity consequently allowed her to have sexual and emotional relations that she could not conceive between women." In addition, the requests she made as the angel Spenditello did not differ substantially from erotic mystical language. See J.C. Brown (1986: 127).
7 On the potential problems with using modern notions of normativity to understand medieval materials see Hollywood (2001: 173-9).
8 Rambuss points to similar problems with Leo Steinberg's theological readings of Christ's penis as it appears in Renaissance art. See Steinberg (1996). For a related argument about the body of Christ in the York cycle see Epp (2001).
9 For many, this would be an apt description of intense sexual desire.
10 The beguines - as women who did not marry, living singly or in groups, often supported themselves through manual labor, and sometimes refused or attempted to escape from the strict jurisdiction of male ecclesial or monastic hierarchies - are also "lesbian-like" in the terms discussed by Bennett. Their modes of religious imagery, however, as I will argue in what follows, were queer in varying degrees.
11 At least from the standpoint of the contemporary reader. Whether these idealized conceptions of divine-human relations would have been similarly "queer" for medieval readers is not yet clear to me. See again Hollywood (2001).
12 For a useful introduction to Origen and his interpretation of the Song of Songs, see McGinn (1992: 108-30). On the "queering" of the Song of Songs in the Christian tradition see Moore (2000). The "individual believer" is a potentially gender neutral category, yet in many male-authored texts on the Song of Songs the presumption of reversal in calling oneself a bride depends on the marking of that believer as male.
13 For the intensity of such gender crossings (and re-crossings) in seventeenth-century English devotional poetry, and the ways in which they destabilize sex, gender, and sexual categories, see Rambuss (1998). The texts of a number of medieval male authors might usefully be subjected to a similar analysis, most particularly perhaps, Rupert of Deutz, Bernard of Clairvaux, Richard of St Victor, and Heinrich Suso.
14 For an overview of Mechthild's life and work see Hollywood (2004b); Hollywood (1995: 1-86); and McGinn (1998: 222-44).
15 This leads in the later books of The Flowing Light to Mechthild's claim that the "well-ordered" soul becomes the "housewife" of God. See Mechthild (1998: VII, 3, 277) and Hollywood (1995: 78-86).
16 For a general overview see McGinn (1998: 199-222). On the homoeroticism of Hadewijch's poems and letters see Matter (1989). On the "queering" effect of the intensity of her desire see Lochrie (1997: 184). For a more "normalizing" reading of Hadewijch's language, in relationship to late medieval theology, see Murk-Jansen (1996: 52-68).
17 For Hadewijch's debts to secular courtly love lyric, see Murk-Jansen (1992: 117-28), Murk-Jansen (1996: 54-55) and the literature cited there. According to Bynum, medieval religious men used gender reversal (the soul as the bride of Christ) to stress their humility in the face of the divinity. Murk-Jansen carries this argument to Hadewijch's poems, arguing that since "within the conventions of the courtly love lyric it is the lady who has all the power" and "the man who is represented as of lower status," Hadewijch too uses gender reversal as a form of renunciation. This is certainly right, at least in part. But as I will argue here, Hadewijch's knight is not simply passive in face of the unattainable Love, but actively seeks her, through pain, passion, and desire. In this he combines activity and passivity (as does the bride in the Song of Songs, who goes into the streets looking for her beloved).
18 On the one hand, Hadewijch stresses that this is the case as long as the soul is in the body or on earth, holding forth the promise of the continual union and coming to fruition of the soul and the divine after death. Yet at other times, the doubleness and cruelty of desire and its passionate, painful, ecstasy seem, literally, endless.
19 Murk-Jansen (1996: 58). This is reminiscent of The Rothschild Canticle's representation of Song of Song 4.9 - "You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse" - in which the bride holds the lance with which Christ's side is wounded on the verso side, and Christ on a stylized cross displays his side wound on the recto. (Rothschild Canticles, New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 404, fols 18v-19r.)
20 According to Murk-Jansen (1996: 66), "the fluid movement between masculine and feminine imagery emphasizes the basic similarity of male and female before God," leaving any account of Hadewijch's own understanding of "womanhood" "necessarily speculative." Yet doesn't the fluidity of human gender before God tell us something about how Hadewijch experienced gender, at least on the level of her relationship to the divine (itself central to her life)?
21 See Sells (1994: 180-217); and Hollywood (1995: 87-119, 180-93).
22 For the "fall into nothingness" and the dialectic of All and Nothing in Porete see Marguerite Porete (1993: ch. 118, 192-3).
23 The term grace rarely appears in the Mirror, and then to refer to the very lowest stages of the soul, which are clearly subordinated to the life of the spirit and that of the annihilated soul. See, for example, Porete (1993: ch. 60, 137-8).
24 Porete deploys gendered language in a number of different ways throughout the Mirror. Her dialectical subversions of the gap between the soul and Love (or the Trinity), for example, often depend for their linguistic operation on the fact that these terms are feminine and so take feminine pronouns. The resultant pronominal ambiguity elides the gap between the soul and the divine. There may also be echoes in Porete of the uniting of male and female characteristics in Christ's body through the bloody side wound. In general, Porete focuses attention on Christ in the third and fourth realms. Yet she calls the divine in the higher realms the "Farnear," thereby evoking both courtly and biblical allusions to the Beloved. This male beloved, moreover, in the sixth stage (the highest the soul can achieve in this life), opens an "aperture" to the soul in which she sees her own eternal glory (Porete 1993: ch. 61, 138). For more on this and other uses of gendered language in the Mirror, see Hollywood (1995: 100-1, 108-9) and Sells (1994: 180-217).
25 Although Porete retains the orthodox position that full union between the soul and the divine can only occur after death, she clearly holds that the soul, while on earth, can annihilate its will and desire. In doing so, the soul overcomes the need for corporeal aids to salvation and is able to "give to nature what it wills." But it is able to do so only because the body is fully subservient to the virtues and so will ask nothing contrary to God's will. See Hollywood (1995: 109-12).
26 For a related argument about the self-subverting nature of sexual desire see Bersani (1988: 197-222).
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