Getting Medieval

Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: September 1999

Author: Carolyn Dinshaw

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

In Getting Medieval Carolyn Dinshaw examines communities—dissident and orthodox—in late-fourteenth and early-fifteenth-century England to create a new sense of queer history. Reaching beyond both medieval and queer studies, Dinshaw demonstrates in this challenging work how intellectual inquiry into pre-modern societies can contribute invaluably to current issues in cultural studies. In the process, she makes important connections between past and present cultures that until now have not been realized.
In her pursuit of historical analyses that embrace the heterogeneity and indeterminacy of sex and sexuality, Dinshaw examines canonical Middle English texts such as the Canterbury Tales and The Book of Margery Kempe. She examines polemics around the religious dissidents known as the Lollards as well as accounts of prostitutes in London to address questions of how particular sexual practices and identifications were normalized while others were proscribed. By exploring contemporary (mis)appropriations of medieval tropes in texts ranging from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction to recent Congressional debates on U.S. cultural production, Dinshaw demonstrates how such modern media can serve to reinforce constrictive heteronormative values and deny the multifarious nature of history. Finally, she works with and against the theories of Michel Foucault, Homi K. Bhabha, Roland Barthes, and John Boswell to show how deconstructionist impulses as well as historical perspectives can further an understanding of community in both pre- and postmodern societies.
This long-anticipated volume will be indispensible to medieval and queer scholars and will be welcomed by a larger cultural studies audience.


“[C]ontroversial and arguable . . . .” — Karma Lochrie , Signs

“Dinshaw is a perceptive, close reader and a sharp, controlled stylist.” — Allen J. Frantzen , Speculum

“Dinshaw moves deftly in and out of texts of various times and genres; there is a subtle, web-like structure to this book. . . . [I]ts influence will be felt as inspiration, as an exhortation to ‘get medieval’ by ‘using ideas of the past, creating relations with past, touching in this way the past in our efforts to build selves and communities now and into the future.’ ” — Christina M. Fitzgerald , Comitatus

Getting Medieval is an examination of how fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England has influenced Western sensibilities and sexualities today. Chaucer, Pulp Fiction, and historical documents have, not surprisingly, small degrees of separation between them, and this exhaustively researched and detailed book discusses every line which can be drawn between each.” — , Lambda Book Report

Getting Medieval is not just for medievalists. . . . Dinshaw’s very personal, highly specific and precisely targeted vision should stimulate consideration of the meanings assigned and assignable to the medieval in the postmodern world.” — Wendy Scase, Times Higher Education

“[A] tour de force in its yoking together of disparate subjects, its imaginative use of small examples to support grand hypotheses, and its exposition of current prejudices. It is a queer patchwork of past and present, marked by numerous subjeadings and a swift movement between a relatively small number of medieval instances, a selection of theoretical works, and personal discussion. It is an intelligent, consciously perverse book – one that would be difficult to imitate successfully and perhaps requires or hopes to create a consciously perverse reader.” — Corinne Saunders, Medium Aevum

“[B]reathtaking. . . . Getting Medieval is clearly not your average book of medieval literary or cultural criticism, and it’s not intended only for specialists in those fields. . . [It] is a startling attempt to use aspects of medieval life and thought to make sense of the world we inhabit today and, conversely, to explore new meanings in what we know (or think we know) about life in the Middle Ages. . . . The power of Getting Medieval comes from Dinshaw’s ability—conveyed in engaging, witty, persuasive prose—to shock us into questioning the present day’s notions about the past.” — Michael Bronski , Gay & Lesbian Review

"Getting Medieval virtually overflows with information and ideas. . . . [Dinshaw] skillfully interweaves dozens of texts. . . . She provides rich social and historical contextualization. . . . Dinshaw makes an impassioned, well-buttressed argument for the importance of locating sexual nonconformists hidden within historical interstices." — Kathy Sisson, Sexuality & Culture

“A wonderful book. The things addressed are so heterogeneous—their sheer distance from one another is a kind of elegance.” — Robert Glück, San Francisco State University

“Carolyn Dinshaw is preeminent for the subtlety with which she discloses gendered turmoil in historically situated texts. I can hardly wait to have Getting Medieval on my own shelf, to have its adventurous deployments of ‘the touch of the queer’ available for frequent consultation.” — Paul Strohm, University of Oxford

“This book has a beautiful range, both among premodern English discourses and in postmodern theory, and Dinshaw really and truly does make these different textualities touch.” — Louise O. Fradenburg, University of California, Santa Barbara


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carolyn Dinshaw is Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University. She is author of Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics and Chaucer and the Text: Two Views of the Author and cofounding editor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Touching the Past 1

Chapter One
It Takes One to Know One: Lollards, Sodomites, and Their Accusers 55

Chapter Two
Good Vibrations: John/Eleanor, Dame Alys, the Pardoner, and Foucault 100

Chapter Three
Margery Kempe Answers Back 143

Getting Medieval: Pulp Fiction, Foucault, and the Use of the Past 183

Notes 207

Bibliography 305

Index 337
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2365-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2330-3
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