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Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)

14th century English poem consisting of linked travelers tales. The Parson’s tale includes reference to “sodomy” by women, but this is not necessarily a reference to homosexual activity.

LHMP entry

Introduction

As with most general works on same-sex sexuality (and especially ones authored by men) this book is overwhelmingly focused on male sexuality. There is also the tendency usual in this context to suggest that texts, situations, and commentaries that don’t specifically include women can be extrapolated to them.

Mills asks (rhetorically) why medievalists rarely discuss transgender frameworks of interpretation, given that medieval people had much clearer ideas about that topic than anything that might be called “sexuality.” Moral polemics focused less on sex acts themselves, than on disruptions of gender, in particular those that violated the strict binary contrast of “male = active, female = passive.” Androgynous (or intersex) persons were recognized as existing, but were required to choose a consistent binary gender identity (or celibacy).

This is a very brief (2 page) review of references to non-heterosexual erotic orientation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Parson refers directly to both male and female homosexuality with scriptural context.[*] Other references are more oblique and coy (and primarily address male homosexuality).

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