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REVIEWS125 Paris and several armed knights, Wolfthal notes that in the Othea, Helen is 'constructed as a willing lover,' while Paris employs 'no physical coercion against her.' This assessment understates the intimacy ofthe embrace shared by Helen and Paris. In an¡mage ofmutual lechery, Helen tucks one hand up Paris's fur-trimmed sleeve and the other around his waist while Paris strokes her low-cut dress at the hip with one hand as he gestures toward the vicinity ofher pelvis with the other. Significantly, Christine's text, gloss, and allegory ofthis mythographic exemplum for a young prince represent Helen as an embodiment ofthe temptations to commit the sin offornication and to break the commandment against coveting your neighbor's wife. Thus rape is not an issue in Christine's textual construction of Helen and the absence of a scene of ravishment in the accompanying miniature is an accurate visual translation of Christine's textual aims. Wolfthal's second example to support her thesis contrasts the Ovide and Othea miniatures ofDaphne. As with Helen, Wblfthal takes no account ofhow Christine uses the Daphne myth in her text to encourage the young prince(s) to seek the laurel crown ofvictory, which signifies gold, nobility, and honor. Although Christine's Daphne miniature may inadvertently avoid representingwomen as victims ofsexual violence, its image ofApollo plucking a branch from the laurel tree is more likely intended to represent a salutary striving for glory and honor which Othea urges Hector (and Christine instructs the dauphin) to imitate. Ovid's interest in Apollo's pre-metamorphosis pursuit of Daphne's virginity does not serve Christine's immediate textual goals. However, the true focus of Christine's image, Daphne's changed state, is perfectly consistent with them. The Othea Daphne's sexless nude human body merely forms the trunk of the laurel tree from which Apollo plucks a branch. Overall, Wolfthal's examination of the Othea miniatures privileges their purported erasure of women's victimization without even acknowledging that Christine may have had another thematic motive, the moral instruction of these young men. Ironically, in its attempt to project upon Christine a contemporary feminist agenda condemning violence against women, Wolfthal's analysis itselfrisks violating Christine's own authorial intentions in the Othea. For me, this essay was the weak link in an otherwise strong and admirably varied collection. With that caveat, I recommend the book to those who wish to immerse themselves in the complex network ofinterdisciplinary topics—medicine, patronage, the book trade, manuscript illumination, literature, philosophy, political theory, military studies—that contemporary Christine Studies incorporate. As an added bonus, while the 'Works Cited' does not claim to be exhaustive, it would be a fine place to start for anyone wanting a working bibliography of major past and present criticism devoted to this polymath. LORRAINE K. STOCK University of Houston allen J. FRANTZEN, Before the Closet: Same-Sex Lovefrom 'Beowulfto AngeL· in America. ' Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Pp. x, 369. isbn: 0-22626091 -7. $35. 126ARTHURIANA Allen Frentzen argues in his new book on homosexuality in the Middle Ages that the early Middle Ages resisted and prohibited same-sex acts, a position counter to that of John Boswell in Christianity, Social Tolerance, andHomosexuality: Gay People in Western Europefrom the Beginning ofthe Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). Such resistance, according to Frantzen, existed before the concept of the 'closet' arose as concealment for the necessarily secret. Locating the moment in the history ofsex when the closet came to exist as the mideleventh century, Frantzen equates the phenomenon with the Church's desire to standardize penance for sin because ofthe fear that explicit description ofsexual acts might arouse Christians to new sins (5). Frantzen argues most especially, therefore, for the privileging of Anglo-Saxon same-sex relations as a model with which later cultures and historical periods can be compared: '[I]n Anglo-Saxon England samesex relations had no features recognizably peculiar or particular to "homosexual" identity' (15). For this reason he prefers the trope ofthe 'shadow' (predominant in the early Middle Ages, before the eleventh century) to that of the closet. Because the 'shadow' is defined as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1539
Print ISSN
1078-6279
Pages
pp. 125-128
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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