Home Browse Imprints and Partners Join Our Email List For Authors About Us Contact Us

Castration and Culture in the Middle Ages


Availability  Available


Buy E-Book

Add to Wish List

Castration and castrati have always been facets of western culture, from myth and legend to law and theology, from eunuchs guarding harems to the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century castrati singers. Metaphoric castration pervades a number of medieval literary genres, particularly the Old French fabliaux - exchanges of power predicated upon the exchange or absence of sexual desire signified by genitalia - but the plain, literal act of castration and its implications are often overlooked.
This collection explores this often taboo subject and its implications for cultural mores and custom in Western Europe, seeking to demystify and demythologize castration. Its subjects include archaeological studies of eunuchs; historical accounts of castration in trials of combat; the mutilation of political rivals in medieval Wales; Anglo-Saxon and Frisian legal and literary examples of castration as punishment; castration as comedy in the Old French fabliaux; the prohibition against genital mutilation in hagiography; and early-modern anxieties about punitive castration enacted on the Elizabethan stage. The introduction reflects on these topics in the context of arguably the most well-known victim of castration in the middle ages, Abelard.

Larissa Tracy is Associate Professor of Medieval Literature at Longwood University.

Contributors: Larissa Tracy, Kathryn Reusch, Shaun Tougher, Jack Collins, Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Jay Paul Gates, Charlene M. Eska, Mary A. Valante, Anthony Adams, Mary E. Leech, Jed Chandler, Ellen Lorraine Friedrich, Robert L.A. Clark, Karin Sellberg, Lena Wånggren


Anyone interested in the multiple premodern meanings of castration will enjoy this morbidly fascinating collection; it deserves the attention of all who work on ancient, medieval or early modern masculinities. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

Each contribution is equally engaging and provides an account that can be read as a stand-alone work; likewise, read in conjunction, the fourteen essays sit well together to provide a detailed picture of castration in medieval society. PARERGON

Its wide temporal and geographical range, its sheaf of disciplinary approaches, make Castration and Culture a valuable collection and one that achieves a notable coherence. ÓENACH

Highly recommended for academic library Medieval Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. MIDWEST BOOOK REVIEW, July 2013


First Published: 18 Jul 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843843511
Pages: 365
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Details updated on 30 Mar 2016


  • 1  Introduction: A History of Calamities: The Culture of Castration
  • 2  Raised Voices: The Archaeology of Castration
  • 3  The Aesthetics of Castration: The Beauty of Roman Eunuchs
  • 4  Appropriation and Development of Castration as Symbol andPractice in Early Christianity
  • 5  'Al defouleden is holie bodi': Castration, the Sexualization ofTorture, and Anxieties of Identity in the South English Legendary
  • 6  The Children He Never Had; The Husband She Never Served:Castration and Genital Mutilation in Medieval Frisian Law
  • 7  The Fulmannod Society: Social Valuing of the (Male) LegalSubject
  • 8  'Imbrued in their owne bloud': Castration in Early Welsh andIrish Sources
  • 9  Castrating Monks: Vikings, the Slave Trade, and the Valueof Eunuchs
  • 10  'He took a stone away': Castration and Cruelty in the Old Norse Sturlunga saga
  • 11  The Castrating of the Shrew: The Performance of Masculinityand Masculine Identity in La dame escolliee
  • 12  Eunuchs of the Grail
  • 13  Insinuating Indeterminate Gender: A Castration Motif inGuillaume de Lorris's Romans de la rose
  • 14  Culture Loves a Void: Eunuchry in Eunuchry in De Vetula and Jean Le Fèvre's La Vieille
  • 15  The Dismemberment of Will: Early Modern Fear of Castration

Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature

Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature

Violence in Medieval Society

Violence in Medieval Society