Jacquelyne Staley will be graduating in May with dual degrees in Art History and English with an emphasis in literature.
Let’s Talk About Sects: Sexuality in Sacred and Secular Images in Gothic France
The medieval period was a time when religion ruled the world. Codes of acceptable and deviant sexual behavior were imposed upon medieval audiences in various forms of depictions found throughout the dark ages. While recognizing the artistic value of sexually charged images, scholars have typically analyzed these paintings in isolation from their broader cultural context. My analysis, however, will explore visual materials from the gothic period specific to France alongside contemporaneous literary and liturgical text to show that codified notions of deviant sexual behavior developed from a culmination of these cultural forms.
I will specifically examine the images found within illuminated manuscripts known as the Bible Moralisee (Moralized Bible), commissioned and viewed by the ruling class, in conjunction with the bawdy, humorous, and romance literature that were circulated throughout the general population, and specifically the Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose). Sexual behavior like prostitution, homosexuality, and adultery can be seen in these images and were represented as transgressive and harmful to individuals and society.
My examination will show how art shaped sexual codes of behavior across class lines. While the culture of Gothic-France differs drastically from ours, sexuality and how it functioned as enforcers of social conduct offers insight into the power of images and their enduring authority to prescribe, sanction, and repress innate human behavior.