Session Title

Social Filth: An Interdisciplinary Roundtable on Medieval Obscenity (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Institute for Research in the Humanities, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Organizer Name

Melissa Vise; Carissa M. Harris

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison; Temple Univ.

Presider Name

Melissa Vise

Paper Title 1

Indecent Animals in Late Medieval Valencia

Presenter 1 Name

Abigail Agresta

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Queen's Univ. Kingston

Paper Title 2

O Mentula: The Transgressive Power of a Latin Obscenity

Presenter 2 Name

Sean Tandy

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Paper Title 3

Talking Dirty about the Gods: The Function of Obscenity in Norse Mythological Poems

Presenter 3 Name

Ali Frauman

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Paper Title 4

Swearing in Church: Medieval Profanity and Québécois Sacres

Presenter 4 Name

Aylin Malcolm

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Univ. of Pennsylvania

Paper Title 5

Marginal Members: Male Members in Text and Image in The Romance of the Rose

Presenter 5 Name

Judith Weston

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Univ. of Pennsylvania

Paper Title 6

Keeping It Clean: Medieval Obscenity in the Modern Classroom

Presenter 6 Name

Mary C. Flannery

Presenter 6 Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Start Date

12-5-2018 10:00 AM

Session Location

Bernhard 158

Description

Medieval obscenity was a category between literature and law, one that was dependent on aesthetics as it was on notions of transgression. Bald, naked sheela-na-gigs carved in Irish churches lewdly exhibited their vulvas to passing parishioners; comic texts like the Middle French farce La confession Margot used obscenity to critique clerical sexual misconduct and exploit the possibilities of confessional practice; fifteenth-century Scotswomen took one another to court for hurling insults like “pintill in pintill out huir” [penis in, penis out whore]; and fourteenth-century Italian gamblers used the phrase “by the cunt of the Virgin Mary” for good luck, sparking prosecution for gambling as well as blasphemy. At the same time, religious writers like Gregory the Great, Caesarius of Heisterbach, Robert Mannyng, and John Mirk shared a popular exemplum about a chaste nun who was condemned to eternal damnation for her bawdy talk, which infected the nunnery with transgression and caused her sisters to “thenke on synne,” and Michael Camille has noted how (likely) fifteenth-century readers of Aristotle’s De generatione erased miniatures depicting copulating figures, demonstrating both the cultural appeal and the taboo of obscenity. This session expands on recent scholarship on medieval obscenity, including Nicole Nolan Sidhu’s Indecent Exposure: Gender, Politics, and Obscene Comedy in Middle English Literature (2016) and Nicola McDonald’s edited collection, Medieval Obscenities (2007), as well as “Feminist Readings of Medieval Obscenity,” a paper panel from the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies (2016) organized by Sidhu and sponsored by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship.

Melissa Vise, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Carissa Harris, Temple University

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May 12th, 10:00 AM

Social Filth: An Interdisciplinary Roundtable on Medieval Obscenity (A Roundtable)

Bernhard 158

Medieval obscenity was a category between literature and law, one that was dependent on aesthetics as it was on notions of transgression. Bald, naked sheela-na-gigs carved in Irish churches lewdly exhibited their vulvas to passing parishioners; comic texts like the Middle French farce La confession Margot used obscenity to critique clerical sexual misconduct and exploit the possibilities of confessional practice; fifteenth-century Scotswomen took one another to court for hurling insults like “pintill in pintill out huir” [penis in, penis out whore]; and fourteenth-century Italian gamblers used the phrase “by the cunt of the Virgin Mary” for good luck, sparking prosecution for gambling as well as blasphemy. At the same time, religious writers like Gregory the Great, Caesarius of Heisterbach, Robert Mannyng, and John Mirk shared a popular exemplum about a chaste nun who was condemned to eternal damnation for her bawdy talk, which infected the nunnery with transgression and caused her sisters to “thenke on synne,” and Michael Camille has noted how (likely) fifteenth-century readers of Aristotle’s De generatione erased miniatures depicting copulating figures, demonstrating both the cultural appeal and the taboo of obscenity. This session expands on recent scholarship on medieval obscenity, including Nicole Nolan Sidhu’s Indecent Exposure: Gender, Politics, and Obscene Comedy in Middle English Literature (2016) and Nicola McDonald’s edited collection, Medieval Obscenities (2007), as well as “Feminist Readings of Medieval Obscenity,” a paper panel from the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies (2016) organized by Sidhu and sponsored by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship.

Melissa Vise, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Carissa Harris, Temple University