Skip to content Skip to navigation

Full citation: 

Holsinger, Bruce Wood. 1993. “The Flesh of the Voice: Embodiment and the Homoerotics of Devotion in the Music of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 19 no. 1: 92-125.

Contents summary: 

The general topic of this article is the use of music and musical imagery in the experience and expression of religious devotion, particularly as an embodied experience. The starting point for the thesis is the establishment of a rhetoric of embodied sensual experience of “divine music” both as a metaphor and as literal sensory perception. The author states: “I will explore just a few of the many ways in which Hildegard’s musical compositions exemplify her own conceptions of body--particularly the female body--and its central role in religious devotion. ...This devotional music sonorously elaborates upon female bodies (both human and divine) and female sexual desire, making sensual physicality integral to religious devotion.” The essence of his position is that a sensual expression of embodied religious devotion to a female figure (such as the Virgin), especially when expressed via feminized allegorical figures (such as Ecclesia) is inescapably homoerotic. [While there are other interesting pieces of evidence addressing Hildegard’s close emotional relationships with women, I feel that this particular article doesn’t contribute much towards a practical approach to understanding, interpreting, and expressing female same-sex desire in a historic context. I include it because the title implies a greater relevance than I found and therefore it’s worth covering.]