Music in the Margins: Queerness in the Clerical Imagination, 1200–1500

Lisa Colton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the prominence of “queerness” in music-related images in devotional books of the period 1200–1500. Musical and sexualized images in the physical margins of medieval books blurred the divinely ordained categories of society, reveling in the queering of traditional hierarchies by music and the sounding sexual body. The chapter first considers notions of queerness in music in the Middle Ages, particularly as it pertains to music’s conception, representation, and performance. It then explores the concept of queerness and sexuality before 1500 by referencing Christian legal texts and musical behaviors and practices that might have been construed as acts of transgression, and the distinct overlap of discourses relating to musical and erotic pleasures. It concludes with a discussion of clerics’ sexual identity, showing that the increased focus on celibacy threatened the distinction between men and women, and sparking a crisis in clerical identity in which masculinity figured significantly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness
EditorsFred Everett Maus, Sheila Whiteley
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780199984169
ISBN (Print)9780199793525
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


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