Since the publication of John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, historians have accepted the view that the early Middle Ages tolerated and even fostered same-sex relations and that intolerance of homosexuality developed only late in the medieval period. In this extraordinary study, Allen J. Frantzen challenges this long-held belief, showing that early medieval Christians did not tolerate same-sex acts, and, furthermore, that men and women during this time who preferred homosexual relations pursued their desires in spite of official sanctions. The early medieval period was, Frantzen argues, an age before people recognized the existence--or the possibility--of the "closet."
With its ambitious scope and elegant style, Before the Closet focuses on Anglo-Saxon literature but also includes thoughtful examinations of contemporary opera, dance, and theatre. Instead of the closet, Frantzen employs the figure of the shadow to illustrate the coexistence of homosexual and heterosexual relations in the Middle Ages. He introduces this figure through an analysis of a man's part sung by a woman in operas such as Gounod's Faust and Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. He traces the reverse figure-men taking women's parts-in two dances by Mark Morris, The Hard Nut and Dido and Aeneas, and analyzes the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant in Tony Kushner's play Angels in America. Frantzen's wide-ranging study also includes such well-known poems as Beowulf and The Wanderer.
Erudite and provocative, this book offers a comprehensive analysis of sources from the seventh to the twelfth century and traces Anglo-Saxon same-sex behavior through the age of Chaucer and into the Renaissance.
Table of Contents
Pt. 1: Trouser Roles and Transvestites
1: What's Love Got to Do with It?
2: Kiss and Tell: Anglo-Saxon Tales of Manly Men and Women
Pt. 2: The Anglo-Saxons
3: Surveying Same-Sex Relations in the Early Middle Ages
4: The Sociology of Sex in Anglo-Saxon Laws and Penitentials
5: The Shadow of Sodom: Same-Sex Relations in Pastoral Prose and Poetry
Pt. 3: From Angles to Angels
6: Sex and the Anglo-Saxons from the Norman Conquest to the Renaissance
7: Alla, Angli, and Angels in America
Afterword: Me and My Shadows
What People are Saying About This
An important contribution to the history of sexuality, this original work focuses on the clulture and literature of Anglo-Saxon England. . . . Before the Closet will generate much needed discussion and stimulate historical work in the study of same-sex relations.