Schibanoff’s article explores the close emotional relations between 12th century abbess Hildegard of Bingen and Richardis of Stade, a younger noblewoman who became a nun under her. Their relationship led to conflict when Richardis left to become abbess at a different institution and Hildegard went to great lengths to try to arrange for her return.
Chapter 1 (Introduction)
A discussion of terminology, some of the cross-cultural problems of defining the topic of the book, and a statement of intent.
Chapter 2 (In the Beginning: 40,000-1200 BCE)
This article provides a brief historic survey of evidence regarding love between women in Islamic societies. Classical treatises on sexual transgression discuss tribadism (sahq) from a male perspective. There are occasional comparisons to male homosexuality, but in general the two are considered distinct, except generally as vices. Popular imagination, (especially in western accounts) considered lesbianism common in harems.
This article looks at the language of personal love and affection between medieval cloistered women. This social context provides an interesting window expressions of female same-sex desire due to three intersecting factors: the gender-segregated nature of their communities, the relative autonomy (economic and intellectual) women enjoyed within these communities, and the high degree of literacy among cloistered women (allowing us glimpses into their lives via their own words).
A catalog of reasons why women might take up grinding, essentially identical to the one given in al-Yemeni: due to physiological or esthetic issues, because she is slow to climax with a man, because of pain on intercourse, because she prefers smooth-cheeked kisses, because she has a dominant “masculine” personality.
Part II: The history and representation of female homosexuality in the Middle Ages
Chapter 3: An overview of Medieval literature concerning female homosexuality
“Travesty” comes literally from “cross-dress” with the theatrical term later picking up its sense of general transgression. Anyone familiar with theater and opera from Shakespeare onward is aware how popular it was to include gender disguise in its many forms and consequences. The two most common expressions both revolve around anxiety about female-female desire: a woman disguised as a man who attracts female romantic attention, or a man disguised as a woman to gain intimate access to a woman who then worries about the ensuing “wrong” erotic attraction.
This article looks at an unusual 12th century text: Etienne de Fougères’ Livre des Manières, a catalog-in-verse of different classes of people. The inclusion of women who have sexual relations with other women is unusual for touching on the subject at all and valuable for the reflection of the author's attitude. The concept of classifying and ordering the parts of society has a long tradition, whether the older Dumézilian division into priests, warriors, and farmers, or the medieval division into various "estates".
The article begins with a survey of the discussion of, and attitudes toward distinguishing biological sex and gender behaviour in professional literature. Especially in distinguishing transvestism, transexualism, gender non-conformity, and more situational uses of cross-gender behavior. This article focuses more on those situational uses rather than cross-dressing as a feature of gender or sexual identity.