Rezension über:

Anne-Lydie Dubois: Former la masculinité. Éducation, pastorale mendiante et exégèse au XIIIe siècle (= Bibliothèque d'Histoire Culturelle Du Moyen Âge; 21), Turnhout: Brepols 2022, 460 S., ISBN 978-2-503-59522-1, EUR 85,00
Inhaltsverzeichnis dieses Buches
Buch im KVK suchen

Rezension von:
Ruth Mazo Karras
Trinity College, Dublin
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Ralf Lützelschwab
Empfohlene Zitierweise:
Ruth Mazo Karras: Rezension von: Anne-Lydie Dubois: Former la masculinité. Éducation, pastorale mendiante et exégèse au XIIIe siècle, Turnhout: Brepols 2022, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 4 [15.04.2023], URL:

Bitte geben Sie beim Zitieren dieser Rezension die exakte URL und das Datum Ihres Besuchs dieser Online-Adresse an.

Anne-Lydie Dubois: Former la masculinité

Textgröße: A A A

Anne-Lydie Dubois argues that for medieval people, as for modern ones, masculinity was not attributed at birth but required continual inculcation and reinforcement. She presents a number of exegetical works and treatises on education in detail, noting what guidelines each gives for becoming an adult, a Christian, and a man. Although written by churchmen (mostly Dominicans), the texts are concerned with the formation of lay masculinity. This involved navigating the tension around the need to reproduce and the sinfulness of sex; however, sexuality was not the sole or even the primary concern of these texts. They present an entire pedagogical programme aimed at creating a mature, wise, pious, self-controlled, fatherly man. And they begin with the first man, Adam.

The chapters are organized around themes relating to men's stages of life and social roles, and within each sub-theme Dubois presents evidence from her sources, which include pedagogical texts like the De regimine principum of Giles of Rome and De eruditione filiorum nobilium of Vincent of Beauvais among others; sermons ad status by Gilbert of Tournai, Jacques de Vitry, Humbert of Romans, and the Communiloquium of John of Salisbury; encyclopedias like the De proprietatibus rerum of Bartholomeus Anglicus, the Speculum maius of Vincent of Beauvais, and the Liber de natura rerum of Thomas of Cantimpré; biblical commentaries beginning with Hugh of St.-Cher and continuing through Nicholas de Gorran and Peter John Olivi; and confessors' manuals by Thomas of Chobham, Robert of Flamborough, and John of Freiburg.

Dubois has chosen to focus on depth rather than breadth. Her tight focus on education and formation means that she can analyse a relatively small number of texts in great specificity. This is, then, not a book for those who want an overview of medieval attitudes to masculinity across genres and across time - as she recognizes, hagiography, imaginative literature, and medicine have been treated by others. However, for those who want a careful reading of some very influential works that made a great impact on medieval life, the work is exemplary. One of the strengths of the work is the particular attention paid to linguistic choices. When does a text use vir, when does it use masculus, who is included and not included in these categories?

Adam's status in Paradise provided an exemplar of perfect masculinity, created at the perfect virile age. In a sense it is the creation of Eve, and thereby of sex/gender distinction, that causes the fall; but even after the creation of Eve, medieval thought tended to follow Augustine in saying that sex in Eden did not include sinful lust but was controlled by a masculine reason. Such a masculine sexuality liberated from sin by the exercise of will over the body was attainable only in Eden, and even then only by a member of the more reasonable gender. But Adam possessed not only reason that allowed him to master his body, but also other gifts including prophetic vision and idealized honourable labour without toil.

Virilitas (the state of being a vir) was not only the better of the two sexes but also the best of masculinities, superior to those of other ages and also of other behaviours. For Giles of Rome, not only was a woman a man manqué, she was similar to a boy. The opposite of virilitas was mollitia or weakness, connected with women or effeminacy; but for these authors, virilitas was to find its expression in the service of God, and weakness meant turning away toward worldly things. Boys, like women, were unable to master their natural inclinations.

Unlike women, however, boys could be trained to master them, for example by physical exercise (not recommended for girls), by controlling their weeping, by learning to be on one's guard against temptation. The body's sexual urges become difficult to control during adolescentia, leading to the necessity of marriage, although some of the texts do their best to turn young men away from women altogether, either through depiction of them as tools of the devil, or by emphasizing the spiritual advantages of virginity (although not to the same extent this is emphasized for young women). At the same time as sexual urges emerge, however, according to Giles of Rome, so does reason, allowing the young man to combat them (and the metaphor of combat is common across these texts). Nocturnal emissions can be a sign of insufficiently vigorous combat, a failure to defend the imagination from sinful fantasy. Young women, on the other hand, need to be concerned with the urges of others, and their purity is something to be guarded from external threats; they are not described in these works with the same kind of inflamed lust as young men. The women who have to overcome their sexual urges with virile combat are widows, who feel similar temptations and can fight against them in the same way. It is necessary, of course, for the continuation of society that sex takes place, but it can soil and contaminate men as well as women, and great care must be taken not to come in contact with menstrual fluid, or indeed with one's own semen more than necessary for the marital act.

The boy, grown up and become a man, is responsible for the upbringing of his own sons in turn. The masculine behavior of the son is a sign of the strength of the father's seed. The father must inculcate it through strictness and, when necessary, chastisement. Punishment of the son's body, like punishment of a man's own body, is a way of demonstrating manhood. But men must similarly chastise their spouses, who like children lack reason and self-control, and must be cared for. A wife is the man's responsibility, just as Adam was accountable for Eve's sin. His misplaced wish not to disappoint his wife led to the entry of sin into the world.

This is precisely the kind of book to which a summary of this sort cannot do justice, because its strength lies in the details of and differences among the different texts, which this review must necessarily elide. While reluctant to impose an overall pattern on the ideas presented, Dubois does discern certain trends, relating to the concern of the mendicants with lay education in the second half of the thirteenth century; they were following up on ideas broached by the secular clergy in the first half of the century. The real strength of the book, however, is not in its depiction of change over time, but in its deep dive into individual thinkers and the tracing of ideas across genres. The riches it has to offer are great.

Ruth Mazo Karras