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Livre des Manières (Étienne de Fougères)

12th century French poem cataloging various social classes that contains an unusual section describing women who have sex with women in various metaphoric images.

LHMP entry

Reading pre-modern literature in terms of gender and sexuality requires abandoning, modern sexual categories, even when continuities can be identified. The chapter begins with a review of major historians that shaped the study of medieval (homo)sexuality. It discusses the complicated structure of medieval, thinking around gender and sexuality. Discussion of specifics, primarily focuses on male homoerotic relations with brief nods to female relations.

Introduction: Sex before Sexuality

The text opens with a manuscript illustration of the concept of sexual temptation and resistance to that temptation to introduce various themes relating to how sexual objects and desires were understood in “pre-heterosexual” culture.

Chapter 1: Sex and the Middle Ages

This article looks at an unusual 12th century text: Etienne de Fougères’ Livre des Manières, a catalog-in-verse of different classes of people. The inclusion of women who have sexual relations with other women is unusual for touching on the subject at all and valuable for the reflection of the author's attitude. The concept of classifying and ordering the parts of society has a long tradition, whether the older Dumézilian division into priests, warriors, and farmers, or the medieval division into various "estates".

As a a methodology article, Murray begins with the usual discussion of the problems of data on this topic, in particular the double-whammy by which women's history sidelines homosexuality, and the history of homosexuality sidelines women. Having gotten past the problems of definitions and theory, the article presents a survey of types of historic data on women's affectional, erotic, and sexual relations with each other. The material contrasts with Bennett's survey article (Bennett 2000) in that it focuses more broadly on literature and legal theory rather than specific individuals.

Chapter 2

This chapter covers the same material as Amer 2001 covering the 12th century Livre des Manières by Etienne de Fougères. (See also Clark 2001 for more details on the poem's language.)

Amer draws close connections between the symmetric penis-less images of Etienne de Forgères' 12th century French poem Livre des Manières, a catalog-in-verse of different classes of people, focusing on the vices they are prone to. Parallels are noted between the language of this poem and depictions of lesbian sexuality found in Arabic homoerotic literature.

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