Bringing together the work of both leading and emerging scholars in the field of medieval gender studies, the essays in Rivalrous Masculinities advance our understanding of medieval masculinity as a pluralized category and as an intersectional category of gender. The essays in this volume are distinguished by a conceptual focus that goes beyo nd heteronormativity and by their attention to constructions of medieval masculinity in the context of femininity, class, religion, and place. Some widen the field of medieval gender studies inquiry to include explorations of medieval friendship as a framework or culture of arousal and deep emotionality that produced multiple, complex ways of living intensely with respect to gender and sexuality, without reducing all forms of intimacy to implicit sexuality. Some examine intersections of identity, explicating change and difference in conventional modes of gender with regards to regional culture, religion, race, or class. In order to ground this intersectional and interdisciplinary approach with the appropriate disciplinary expertise, the essays in this volume represent a broad cross-section of disciplines: art history, religious studies, history, and French, Italian, German, Yiddish, Middle English, and Old English literature. Together, they open up new intellectual vistas for future research in the field of medieval gender studies.
Contributors include: Ann Marie Rasmussen, Clare A. Lees, Gillian R. Overing, J. Christian Straubhaar-Jones, Astrid Lembke, Darrin Cox, F. Regina Psaki, Corinne Wieben, Ruth Mazo Karras, Diane Wolfthal, Karma Lochrie, and Andreas Krass.
Preface by Ann Marie Rasmussen
1. “A Word to the Wise: Men, Gender, and Medieval Masculinities” by Clare A. Lees
2. “Men in Trouble: Warrior Angst in Beowulf” by Gillian R. Overing
3. “The Rivalry of the Secular and the Spiritual in Henry Suso's Adaptations of Masculinity in The Life of the Servant” by J. Christian Straubhaar
4. “Predicaments of Piousness: The Trouble with Being a Learned Jewish Family Man in Pre-Modern Europe” by Astrid Lembke
5. “The Knight versus the Courtier” by Darrin Cox
6. “Misogyny, Philogyny, Masculinities: Antonio Pucci’s Il Contrasto delle donne” by F. Regina Psaki
7. “Virtù: Marriage, Gender, and Competing Masculinities in Fourteenth-Century Lucca” by Corinne Wieben
8. “David and Jonathan: A Late Medieval Bromance” by Ruth Mazo Karras
9. “When did Servants Become Men?” by Diane Wolfthal
10. “Medieval Masculinities without Men” by Karma Lochrie
11. “The Beloved Discipline: From The Gospel of John to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code” by Andreas Krass
Ann Marie Rasmussen is the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker Memorial Chair of German Literary Studies at the University of Waterloo. She is the author and editor of a number of books, including Visuality and Materiality in the Story of Tristan and Isolde, co-edited with Jutta Eming and Kathryn Starkey (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012).
"In 1994, the groundbreaking volume Medieval Masculinities appeared in print. More than twenty years later, Rivalrous Masculinities showcases state-of-the-art work in medieval masculinity studies. Ann Marie Rasmussen needs to be commended for having assembled an impressive collection of essays." —Helmut Puff, University of Michigan
"The essays in this book together make it clearer than ever that gender is never monolithic. Beyond reminding us in sophisticated and illuminating ways of this basic insight, however, the studies included demonstrate not only the plurality of medieval and early modern masculinities but also, and more significantly, that at the center of this plurality is rivalry. Multiple ways of 'acting like a man' mean that individuals (both men and women) will compete for the power and status this behavior will accord them. Focusing on both imagined and inhabited worlds from a variety of traditions, this book is a must read for anyone thinking in any way about gender and the past." —Sara S. Poor, Princeton University
"This is a really sparkling collection of essays. Overall, the volume addresses the concept(s) of medieval masculinity in the round, with a range of innovative and unusual perspectives. It represents an important contribution both to gender studies and to medieval studies." —Annette M. Volfing, Oriel College, University of Oxford
"Taken together, the experts represented in this volume make a forceful case for the evolution and plurality of medieval masculinities, which were socially constructed, negotiated, and inherently competitive. This book is essential reading for students and scholars interested in multidisciplinary approaches to historical gender identity and culture." —Steven Bednarski, St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo
But back to men in trouble, and their relation to the weather, which leads me to another adjectival compound hrēohmōd, and then eventually on to Heremod and other troubled warriors. The first part of the compound, hrēoh, refers to weather; it means storm, harsh rough elemental forces of all kinds, not necessarily just wet or cold. For every entry of this and its many compounds in Bosworth-Toller’s dictionary, there are parallel evocations of emotional states. A storm is a “troublous time” on many fronts, connected to physical and emotional pain, upheaval, and disturbance. Connected to, or crossing over, with the adjective (h)rēow, “fierce, passionate bloodthirsty,” connected to the noun hrēow, “sorrow or distress,” and to the verb hrēowan, “to rue or regret.” And so it goes with Old English–semantic worlds isomorphically merging. The other half of the compound, mōd, is one of the most familiar and widespread terms in Old English poetry and prose, and also, to my mind, anyway, one of the most mysterious. Mood, mind, heart, spirit, courage, imagination. Having too much of it is problematic, but so is not having enough. Byrthnoth, for example, has too much. He leads many of his men to their deaths by insisting that they fight the Vikings instead of paying them off, and is judged as excessive by the poet of The Battle of Maldon. He is over the limit, ofermōd, a word usually condensed, squeezed by translation, into “proud” or “arrogant.” Beowulf, on the other hand, is caught in one unfortunate situation where he doesn’t have enough of it. When Grendel’s mother has captured him, and locks him in an embrace as they descend together through the mere into her hall, the hero is certainly physically and perhaps emotionally immobilized, not mōdiġ enough. Like “the right stuff,” mōd can evade precise definition, though I sometimes find “ego” a useful working translation.
Beowulf is, interestingly, the only context for the specific configuration hrċohmōd. It describes both Hrothgar and the dragon. Hrothgar emotionally implores Beowulf to avenge Ӕschere (healsode hrċohmōd, [implored troubled in mind], 2132), echoing his deep distress when he discovers the lifeless body of his friend (Þā wæs frōd cyning,/hār hilderinċ on hrēon mōde,/syðþan hē aldorþeġn unlyfiġendne,/þone dēorestan deadne wisse. [then was the wise king, hoary battle warrior, in troubled/stormy mind, after he knew his chief thane to be lifeless, the dear one dead], 1306-9). The literally and emotionally disturbed dragon stomps around his plundered barrow, hāt and hrēohmōd, ([hot and troubled/stormy-minded], 2296), sniffing out the culprit. Shortly thereafter when Beowulf has wounded him, albeit less than fatally, the dragon heats up, on all levels, spewing fire on hrēoum mōde ([in troubled/stormy mind], 2581) .Another point worth emphasizing here before considering how the weather, in whatever environmental form that weather may assume, conjoins with affect, is that, apparently, both men and dragons can contain, can experience, can internalize a “storm,” whether or not it is accompanied by fire. The human/non-human semantic line, where or if there is one, is easily crossed. One important further characteristic of the storm within, or the troubled mind/heart, is that it is not productive; as per the Wanderer’s dictum, it doesn’t help matters (ne se hrēo hyġe helpe gefremman, [nor does troubled thought afford any help], 16). Rather than, or in addition to, sadness, perhaps the storm is one of inner conflict, confusion, turmoil or anxiety, a symptom of a self in crisis. Consider one instance where the poet is very specific about the fact that Beowulf does not experience the “storm.” He has returned to Hygelac’s court, victorious, loaded with gifts, and the poet praises him at length for doing everything absolutely correctly, for observing to the letter all the lord-retainer protocols, and for husbanding his great strength appropriately (2159-83). Notably, he does not get drunk or indiscriminately kill comrades: næs him hrēoh sefa ([to him was not a troubled heart/mind], 2180). He is at peace with himself and thus able to be peaceable, apparently. Beowulf here possesses clarity, focus, and a measure of restraint in the deployment of his strength and the direction of his aggression. Many critics have suggested an implied comparison and contrast here of Beowulf’s state of mind with that of Heremod, who as we shall see, is deeply troubled. Shortly thereafter (within two hundred lines of text, but also at a distance of fifty years), the old Beowulf, now king, is told of the coming of the dragon.