understanding violence against men: testicles & penis often targeted

man being decapitated

Around the world and throughout history, violence has been predominately violence against men. Communally organized war has long been structured as men killing other men. In the U.S. today, about four times more men than women suffer death from violence. That’s not simply because gynocentric society teaches that women’s safety is more important than men’s safety. Violence against men often specifically targets men’s sexuality.

Consider a fifteenth-century French farce. A married man joyfully, but discretely, sings of his consensual sexual affair with a young woman. His wife jealously suspects her husband’s infidelity. With her neighbor Colette, a sexually promiscuous mother of a daughter, she arranges to trick her husband into confessing his sexual affair. Colette disguises herself as a priest. The wife coerces her husband into going to confession with the “priest” Colette. He eventually confesses to the priest that he is having sex with the daughter of his neighbor. That neighbor is Colette. She, outraged, runs to tell the wife.

Colette and the wife plan to beat the husband sexually and violently. Colette declares that, acting as the priest, she will command the husband to submit to the following penance:

That all naked,
down on his hands and knees,
he’ll beg you for mercy and then we
two will each have in our hands
a big stick or at least
a branch with very good prickers.
Then from his head to the soles
of his feet we’ll beat him up very well.

{ Que tout nu
A jointes mains et à genoux
Te crira mercy et puis nous
Deux aurons chacun en noz mains
Ung bon baston ou au moins
Unes verges tres bien poignantes.
Depuis la teste jusques aux plantes
Des piedz sera tresbien gallé. } [1]

That violent attack surely didn’t spare his genitals. After they had beaten him in this way, the husband cried out, “I’m broken everywhere {Je suis tout cassé}.” Colette responded:

You’ve chased very well
my daughter high and low, all in all,
and have made your dick very fat
with her; here’s a flailing to your health!

{ Vous y avez très bien chassé,
En tout, ma fille hault et bas,
Et avez fait voz choux bien gras
Avecques elle, en malle santé.  }

Colette implicitly figures the husband as growing healthy (engorged / fat) with his vigorous thrusting (flailing) against her daughter. She in response satirically gives him a flailing that greatly harms his health. The wife picks up on the sexual innuendo and approvingly declares:

That wasn’t done for nothing.
At least he was rubbed up
and his back was well scratched.

{ Il n’y a pas pour neant esté,
Au moins il a esté froté
Et son dos est bien gallez. } [2]

Women usually commit violence against men, including violence to control men sexually, through having men act as women’s agents of violence. The play of the farce gives the wife and Colette the liberty to enact personally their violence against the husband.

Sexual violence against men doesn’t occur only in imaginative plays. A chronicler described horrific violence against men in thirteenth-century Italy:

Some men had cords tied around their heads and pulled so tightly that their eyes pushed out from the sockets and fell down on their cheeks. Other men were tied up solely by the thumb of the right hand to the left and their bodies thus totally suspended above the ground. And others were tied up and suspended by their testicles.

{ Aliquibus vero ligaverunt capita cum strictorio fortiter perstringendo, quousque egressi sunt oculi de sedibus suis et morabantur in genis; aliquos vero ligabant solummodo per pollicem manus dextre sive sinistre et totaliter totum corpus hominis suspendebant a terra. Et aliquos etiam ligando testiculos suspendebant. } [3]

Similar sexual violence against men occurred in northern France early in the twelfth century:

When he held any captives for ransom, he would hang them, sometimes with his own hand, by their testicles, and when these were torn away from their bodies, as happened frequently, their vital organs would burst out at almost the same time. Others he would hang by the thumbs or by the penis itself, then place a stone over their shoulders to weigh them down

{ Cum enim captos ad redemptionem quoslibiet cogeret, hos testiculis appendebat propria aliquotiens manu, quibus saepe corporea mole abruptis, eruptio pariter vitalium non tardabat; alteri suspenso per pollices aut per ipsa pudenda, saxo etiam superposito humeros comprimebat } [4]

Violence applied directly to men’s testicles and penises emphasizes the gender of the victims. Historians and literary scholars have tended to treat violence against men as normal — merely “violence.” That’s ideological blindness. Violence is applied and reported with acute sex discrimination among persons.

The fourth-century hermit Ammonas of Tunah understood social persecution of men for their sexuality. The sayings of the Christian desert fathers record a heart-warming story about Ammonas:

Once Abba Ammonas went somewhere to eat. A monk there had a bad reputation. A woman happened to come. She went into the cell of the brother who had the bad reputation. Those who were living in that place were troubled when they learned of it. They got together to drive him out of his cell. Knowing that Bishop Ammonas was at that place, they went and asked him to go along with them. When the brother became aware of this, he took the woman and concealed her in a large barrel. When the crowd arrived, Abba Ammonas realized what had happened. He covered up the matter for the love of God. In particular, he came in, sat down on the barrel and ordered the cell to be searched. When they had searched diligently and not found the woman, Abba Ammonas said to them: “What is this? God will forgive you,” and offering a prayer, he obliged them all to withdraw. Then, taking the brother’s hand, he said to him, “Pay attention to yourself,” and so saying, he went away. [5]

Ammonas surely didn’t approve of the monk having sex with a woman. Yet Ammonas, with keen understanding of gynocentrically distorted justice, refused to participate in mob action against the monk for sexual sin. Crude vigilante justice and mob persecution of men for sexual sins is a terrible problem. A chronicler writing in the thirteenth century reported that Ammonas took decisive action to protect himself:

this holy man did as does a beaver or similar animal, who knows that hunters seek to kill him for his testicles. He saves himself by sacrificing part. He castrates himself with his teeth and gives up his testicles and thus they allow him to escape.

{ iste sanctus homo fecit sicut facit fibus sive castor, qui cognoscens, quod venatores persecuntur eum propter testiculos eius habendos, redimit se a parte. Dentibus enim evellit sibi testiculos et dimittit eis, et sic permittunt eum evadere. } [6]

Mob action against men for their sexuality is far worse today than it was in the time of Ammonas the hermit. Many men today effectively castrate themselves to escape mobs that attack and persecute men with testicles. Such self-castration is horrible, but reasonable under the circumstances.

An enlightened commitment to truth and good reason offers the best hope for lessening violence against men. Given the actual facts about violence, ensuring men’s safety and combating persecuting of men’s sexuality should be preeminent social concerns. Even those who don’t regard men as fully human beings should understand that promoting men’s safety helps to advance women’s safety. We must make the world safe for men.

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[1] Farce de celuy qui se confesse à sa voisine ll. 505-13, French text from Cohen (1949) pp. 9-20, my English translation. Enders (2013) Ch. 3 provides a much looser English translation. Enders suggests that such treatment of the husband wasn’t unusual:

the physical violence of a folk vengeance that appears to have struck as odd no one at all. The Husband’s “penance” is to stand there and take it as his Wife and Colette beat the crap out of him.

Id. pp. 108-9.

Farce de celuy qui se confesse à sa voisine is a fifteenth-century play consisting of 616 lines, most of which are octosyllabic verse. According to Enders:

The linguistic highpoint of this play is its unabashed, macaronic, grammatically incorrect, and some might say sacrilegious and even blasphemous borrowing of the Latin language of the confessional.

Enders (2013) p. 110. Medieval Christian doctrine declared that marriage is a conjugal partnership established by the free consent of both parties. Medieval Latin literature of men’s sexed protest provided a critical perspective on medieval gynocentrism. Medieval vernacular literature tended to be more gynocentric than medieval Latin literature. These historical realities give piquancy to the farce.

The subsequent three quotes from Farce de celuy qui se confesse à sa voisine are (cited by line in Cohen’s edition): 577 (Je suis tout cassé), 578-81 (Vous y avez très bien chassé…), 582-4 (Il n’y a pas pour neant esté…).

[2] Enders describes the husband as having “deflowered” Colette’s daughter. Enders (2013) pp. 108, 136. The term “deflower” is associated with the brutalization of men’s sexuality.

[3] Salimbene de Adam, Cronica {Chronicle}, Latin text from Holder-Egger (1905) p. 645, my English translation, benefiting from that of Baird, Baglivi & Kane (1986) p. 651. These were acts of freebooters from Liguria, living in Gesso in north-western Italy.

[4] Guibert of Nogent, Monodiae {Songs of Self} 3.11, Latin text from Bourgin (1907), English trans. from McAlhany & Rubenstein (2011) (adapted slightly). The person administering the vicious violence against men was Thomas de Marle, Lord of Coucy. He was thought to be the son of Enguerrand of Coucy.

Violence against men’s genitals exists in some of the earliest literature. Hesiod’s Theogony attests to castration culture. In Hebrew Scripture, the massacre of men at Schechem involved prior wounding of the men’s genitals (Genesis 34), and the killing of Abner came about through a wound to Abner’s abdomen (2 Samuel 3:27).

[5] Apophthegmata patrum, collection alphabetica, Ammonas 10, from Greek trans. Wortley (2014) p. 63 (with my insubstantial adaptations for readability). The main underlying Greek source is Patrilogia Graeca (PG) 65: 71-440. Ammonas’s only words to the monk, “Pay attention to yourself,” are a variant of the Socratic saying “know yourself.” They poignantly call the monk back to his Christian vocation. For an alternate English translation made from a French translation of the ancient Greek, Ward (1984) p. 28, specific text available here.

[6] Salimbene de Adam, Cronica, Latin text from Holder-Egger (1905) p. 142, my English translation, benefiting from that of Baird, Baglivi & Kane (1986) p. 129. The underlying claim that a male beaver chews off its testicles is from Isidore of Seville’s early-seventh-century Etymologiae 12.2.31.

[image] Man being decapitated. Image (colors digitally enhanced) from manuscript of the Shāhnāmah of Firdawsi. Manuscript made in 1618. Image 34 from digital reproduction of book preserved in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC) at call number PK6455.A2


Baird, Joseph L., Giuseppe Baglivi, and John Robert Kane. 1986. The Chronicle of Salimbene de Adam. Binghamton, N.Y.: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies.

Bourgin, George, ed. 1907. Guibert of Nogent. Histoire de sa vie: 1053-1124. Paris: Picard.

Cohen, Gustave, ed. 1949. Recueil de farces francaises inedites du XVe siecle. Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America.

Enders, Jody. 2013. “The Farce of the Fart” and Other Ribaldries: twelve medieval French plays in modern English. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Holder-Egger, Oswald. 1905-1913. Cronica Fratris Salimbene de Adam. Monumenta Germaniae Historica 32. Hannoverae et Lipsiae: Impr. bibliopolii Hahniani.

McAlhany, Joseph, and Jay Rubenstein, trans. 2011. Guibert of Nogent. Monodies and the Relics of Saints: the autobiography and a manifesto of a French monk from the time of the crusades. New York, NY: Penguin Books. (review by Scott G. Bruce, review by Bruce L. Venarde)

Ward, Benedicta. 1984. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: the alphabetical collection. Rev. ed. Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications.

Wortley, John, trans. 2014. Give Me a Word: the alphabetical sayings of the fathers. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press Popular Patristics Series, no. 52. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Abelard rejected gender injustice in planctus on Dinah and Shechem

massacre of the men of Shechem

As a result of his consensual sexual affair and marriage to Heloise in twelfth-century France, Peter Abelard was castrated. Heloise suffered no punitive violence. She in fact declared herself “wholly innocent” in their affair. The gender injustice of Abelard’s castration seems to have motivated him to provide in his Planctus a critical perspective on what has been wrongly called “the rape of Dinah.”

The biblical story of the massacre of men at Shechem (“the rape of Dinah”) exemplifies deeply rooted gender bias against men. Careful scholarly analysis of the biblical text points to a specific problem:

The widespread opinion that the verb ‘innâ in the Pi’el {story of the massacre at Shechem} refers to “rape” or “sexual abuse” is not acceptable. It suffers from a lack of analysis of all the biblical material and of the distribution of ‘innâ with a female object in the Hebrew Bible. … ‘innâ in Gen. xxxiv 2 does not describe Shechem’s rape or sexual abuse of Dinah, but evaluates Shechem’s previously described actions (“take” and “sleep with”) as a debasement of Dinah from a social-juridical point of view. [1]

Interpreting a man having sex with a virgin woman as debasing her — “deflowering” her — is a social construction that Ausonius trenchantly parodied in the fourth century.  Anti-men bias goes further in the gynocentric tendency to criminalize men’s heterosexuality. Moreover, men’s lives are socially devalued relative to women’s lives. Violence against men is normalized as merely violence and commonly passes without particular notice. That has occurred in the historical reception of the biblical story of the massacre of men at Shechem.

A perceptive philosopher and a highly skilled poet, Peter Abelard wrote an astonishing planctus concerning the massacre of men at Shechem. Abelard entitled it The Lament of Dinah, the Daughter of Jacob {Planctus Dine filie Iacob}. He wrote this poem in the voice of Dinah. That’s a poetic choice consistent with gynocentrism. The poem begins with a conventional lament demonizing the heterosexuality of an unnamed man:

Descendant of Abraham, daughter of Israel,
bright with the blood of the patriarchs:
of an uncircumcised man I was made the plunder,
of an unclean man the prey;
the greatest stain upon a holy race,
mocked as the sport of an enemy people.

{ Abrahe proples, Israel nata,
patriarchum sanguine clara:
incircumcisi uiri rapina,
hominis spurci facta sum preda;
generis sancti macula summa,
plebis aduerse ludis illusa. } [2]

This beginning is thematically similar to women’s incitement of their tribal men to kill men of another tribe (tahrid) in classical Arabic poetry. Yet the concluding Latin phrase ludis illusa emphasizes sport and play. Sports are social constructions typically at considerable distance from mundane reality. The following verse is a jarring refrain:

Woe to wretched me, by myself betrayed!

{ Ve michi misere, per memet prodite! }

Abelard gives Dinah astonishing self-consciousness.[3] Abelard’s Dinah recognizes that femininity was both the reason for Shechem’s desire for her and the basis for the gynocentrism that motivated the massacre of the men at Shechem. Femininity betrays itself in hostility to men’s heterosexuality.

In the subsequent stanza, Abelard’s Dinah underscores her own culpability. She declares:

What did it aid me to behold the foreign women?
How evilly am I known, wanting to know them!
Woe to wretched me, by myself betrayed!

{ Quid alienigenas iuuabat me cornere?
Quam male sum cognita, uolens has cognoscere.
Ve michi misere, per memet prodite! }

Within the tribal societies of the time, the young woman Dinah going by herself to mingle with foreign women would be regarded as outrageously promiscuous behavior. Abelard adds an allusion to female same-sex desire with Dinah wanting to “know” the foreign woman.[4] Planctus Dine filie Iacob doesn’t directly refer to the concluding complaint of Simeon and Levi:

Should our sister be treated like a whore?

{ הכזונה יעשה את־אחותנו } [5]

Abelard’s implicit response within the logic of intention would be that if Dinah acts like a whore, men should treat her like a whore. Men typically don’t want to marry a whore. Within the biblical text, Prince Shechem wanted to marry Dinah. Despite her behavior, he didn’t treat her like a whore in ordinary understanding apart from gynocentric idolization of women. Abelard’s Dinah rejects gynocentric idolization of herself.

Abelard’s Dinah even more daringly expresses sympathy for Shechem in the context of him being persecuted for sexually desiring her. In order for Shechem to be allowed to marry Dinah, Jacob’s sons, speaking on behalf of their father, required Shechem and all the men of his tribe to mutilate their genitals (be circumcised). At the infatuated Shechem’s urging, his men mutilated their genitals. Then, with all the men of Shechem in pain from having mutilated their genitals, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi attacked the city of Shechem. They killed all the men and took all the women captive. Dinah humanely lamented:

Shechem, born to the ruin of your race,
made an everlasting disgrace for our descendants.
Woe to wretched you, by yourself destroyed!

In vain did circumcision make you a Jewish proselyte,
for you couldn’t remove the foreskin of shame.
Woe to wretched you, by yourself destroyed!

{ Sichem, in exicium nate tui generis,
nostris in obprobrium perpes facte posteris.
Ve tibe misero, per temet perdito!

Frustra circumcisio fecit te proselitum,
non ualens infamie tollere prepucium.
Ve tibi misero, per temet perdito! } [6]

Dinah places in parallel her feminine self and Shechem’s masculine self. His masculine desire for the feminine Dinah was natural. It was something that could be predicted from his birth. Yet gynocentric persecution of men’s heterosexual desire was also a structure at Shechem’s birth. In the clash between men’s natural heterosexual desire and gynocentric persecution of men, the latter disastrously prevailed. Thus Shechem was killed and his tribe ruined. To underscore the disaster, Abelard recast the biblical story to give Dinah and Shechem children (“our descendants”). Their descendants received the social curse of everlasting disgrace.

Dinah lamented that Shechem was persecuted as a man even as he sought to change his social identity. So that he could marry Dinah, Shechem sought to become a Jew. So that he could marry Dinah, Shechem mutilated his own genitals and had the men of his tribe do likewise. A man can remove the foreskin of his penis or cut off his testicles. But he individually is powerless to remove the shame and persecution that gynocentric society imposes on men’s heterosexuality.[7] Woe to wretched men, socially set up to be shamed and destroyed by their own heterosexuality.

Dinah compassionately gives reasons by which Shechem should have been treated with mercy. Genesis’s account of the massacre of men at Shechem describes Shechem’s soul being drawn to Dinah. It declares that he loved her, longed for her, and spoke tenderly to her. Yet Dinah’s thoughts and feelings aren’t reported. Planctus Dine filie Iacob reciprocally doesn’t report Shechem’s feelings.[8] Abelard’s Dinah establishes the formal poetic reciprocity lacking in the Genesis account:

Forced to seize me,
seized by my beauty,
before no judge of any kind
would you have been deprived of mercy

The incitement of love,
satisfaction for the crime:
in any sentence these are
a mitigation of the crime.

{ Coactus me rapere,
mea raptus spetie,
quouis expers uenie
non fuisses iudice.

Amoris impulsio,
culpe satisfactio:
quouis sunt iudicio
culpe diminutio. }

Both of these stanzas have the same semantic structure: two verses of reciprocal action, followed by two verses arguing for mitigation of the wrong. Both stanzas present a juridical framework as if a crime had been committed. The Vulgate was the dominant text of the Bible in medieval Europe. Misrepresenting the Hebrew, the Vulgate declared that Shechem “seized the girl and lay with her by force {rapuit et dormivit cum illa vi opprimens virginem}.” That’s rape. Rape and false accusations of rape were regarded as serious crimes in the ancient and medieval world. Abelard seems to have sensed the falseness of the Vulgate’s representation of what Shechem did with Dinah.[9] Abelard’s Dinah questions gynocentric persecution of a reciprocal heterosexual love affair satisfactorily ending in marriage.

Abelard’s Dinah directly challenges the men who are the penal administrators of gynocentric persecution of men. Like the father Jacob, gynocentrism is an absent authority. The penal administrators are the brothers Simeon and Levi:

You did not think rightly, my brothers Simeon and Levi,
in this deed both too cruel and too dutiful:
in your punishment you make the innocent equal with the guilty,
and truly you dishonor our father, cursed be for this!

A man light-hearted and youthful, less wise,
ought to have borne from the wise lesser punishment.

The wrath of my brothers should have been softened by the honor
he did them: a prince of the land, leading forth a foreign bride.

{ Non sic, fratres, censuistis, Symeon et Leui,
in eodem facto nimis crudeles et pii:
innocentes coequastis in pena nocenti,
quin et patrem perturbastis, ob hoc execrandi!

Leuis etas iuuenilis minusque discreta
ferre minus a discretis debuit in pena.

Ira featrum ex honore fuit lenienda
quem his fecit: princeps terre, ducta peregrina. } [10]

Perhaps Abelard understood that Shechem was innocent of raping Dinah. In any case, the other men of Shechem’s city were innocent of any wrong. Jewish law reveres justice and mercy. Simeon and Levi, brothers of Dinah, sons of Jacob, acted with neither justice nor mercy. They were “too dutiful” to non-Jewish gynocentric imperatives. They thus dishonored their father Jacob and deserved to be cursed.

Abelard’s Planctus Dine filie Iacob ends in despair. Dinah laments:

Woe to me, woe to you, young man to be pitied,
in the general massacre of your great race you fall.

{ Vi michi, ue tibi, miserande iuuenis:
in stragem communem gentis tante concidis. } [11]

Scholars have debated at length whether the post-castration Abelard sought to remasculinize himself rhetorically. Scholars have debated at length whether being castrated served Abelard’s desired identity.[12] Those are narrow, self-interested concerns. The lament of Abelard’s Dinah extends to all of humane civilization. Drawing upon his own horrific experience, Abelard sought to warn all women and men about gynocentric persecution of men’s sexuality. Listen to him!

Simeon and Levi slaughter men of Shechem

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[1] Wolde (2002) pp. 543-4. Similarly, Joseph (2016). The biblical story is Genesis 34. Shechem is also commonly spelled Sechem and Sichem. Dinah similarly is also common spelled Dina. On ancient and medieval interpretations of the massacre of men at Shechem, Thibodeau (1990) Kugel (2006) Ch. 3. On recent interpretations, Musija (2014).

Kugel addressed with astonishing disingenuousness Shechem’s actions toward Dinah. Kugel (2006), Ch. 3, has the running title “The Rape of Dinah.” In addition, Kugel gratuitously uses the word “rapist.” Chapter 1 of that book summarizes narrative action using the word “rapist” rather than Shechem’s name:

When Jacob’s only daughter ends up being raped, her brothers respond by invading the rapist’s town and killing every man in it.

Id. p. 2. In the beginning of Chapter 3, Kugel again substituted rapist for the name Shechem:

The rapist’s father, Hamor, does indeed approach Jacob and seek to contract a marriage

Id. p. 36. Kugel subsequently breezily notes, “the city of Shechem (same name as the rapist).” Id. p. 37. Despite this brutal and gratuitous diction, the first endnote to Chapter 3 observes:

Most commentators and translators have assumed that the text refers to forced, non-consensual intercourse, although the sequence of verbs in Hebrew … is open to various interpretations.

Id. p. 231. Id. doesn’t cite Wolde (2002) pp. 543-4 and couldn’t benefit from Joseph (2016). Kugel, however, certainly possess the necessarily linguistic expertise to understand the matter in its specific textual complexity. Moreover, Kugel (2006), and much of Kugel’s biblical study generally, has been concerned with how a single word could prompt an ancient biblical interpretation recasting the biblical text. Yet with respect to the deeply serious question of rape, Kugel declares in this endnote:

This question, while intriguing, is not directly related to our study, which is concerned principally with the reaction of Dinah’s brothers to what they clearly consider an “outrage” (Gen. 34:7).

Id. p. 231. That’s a grotesque intellectual fake. To a claim that a woman was raped, men commonly react with outrage rather than questioning. An astonishing aspect of that outrage is its gender-structure: women raping men, although about as prevalent as men raping women, generates very little outrage or even attention. What the words of text actually mean is highly relevant to interpreting the “outrage” of Dinah’s brothers and their subsequent violence against men.

Other scholars have dealt with the question of rape with similar lack of integrity. Musija refuses to “rule out” that Shechem raped Dinah:

even if it is difficult according to Genesis 34 to conclude that Dinah was really raped, it is quite clear that Shechem has done something to Dinah very evil in the eyes of the narrator. … it seems to me that it is more likely that Shechem, a young man, seduced Dinah, a girl under age and had a sexual relationship with her. Because such act is today considered as something very bad, even culpable, I suppose that it was at least so wrongful at ancient time. That can be the reason why Jacob’s sons were so eager to punish Shechem but not Dinah. … according to the text it is not appropriate to imply so convincingly either that Dinah was raped, or that Dinah was not raped. According to the text it is clear that Shechem has done something very bad to Dinah in the eyes of the narrator. In my opinion, the text speaks about seduction of a girl under age, but rape also remains one of the possibilities.

Musija (2014) pp. 6-7 (internal note omitted). That’s vicious rhetoric. One can’t rule out the possibility that Musija or any other person is a rapist. That’s not a fair basis for suggesting that a person is a rapist, even if another person believes that she has “done something very evil.” The gender injustice of vicious rhetoric is magnified when grotesquely misleading claims about men raping women are disseminated in widely read media, when men are vastly disproportionately represented among persons under criminal justice control, and when incarceration of men is at extraordinarily high levels.

[2] Peter Abeland, Planctus Dine filie Iacob ll. 1-6, Latin text and English translation (adapted slightly) from Ruys (2014) pp. 245-6, 257-8. For illusa, Ruys translated “abused.” Mocked is closer to the Latin root meaning and seems to me more appropriate in context.

Abelard’s Planctus is a quite unusual work in literary history. Ruys (2014) pp. 61-2. All six Planctus that Abelard wrote are preserved in only one manuscript, Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Reg. Latin. 288, dated to the late twelfth century. Abelard apparently wrote the Planctus in the mid-1130s. Id. pp. 8, 65.

All subsequent quotes from the Planctus are sourced as above and are, with the exception of one stanza, in the order of the poem’s lines. Paul Zumthor’s Latin text and French translation (1992) of the Planctus is freely available online.

[3] Ruys finds it perplexing that Dinah would declare that she was betrayed by herself. She also finds Abelard’s Dinah to be “strident and unconvincing in terms of a lament in the feminine voice.” Ruys (2014) pp. 82, 71. Sweeney, in contrast, states:

Abelard’s Dinah is far more real than the Dinah of scripture; we are touched by her suffering and edified by the insight borne of that suffering. Her significance is not just as a cog in the wheel of providence or as an allegorical figure embodying some virtue or vice to Abelard; nonetheless, his focus on imagining her concrete individuality, paradoxically, manages to increase her ethical and religious significance rather than the contrary.

Sweeney (2016) p. 110. Thibodeau similarly appreciates the personal depth of Abelard’s Dinah. Abelard depicts her consciousness “with its full depth of reflection and its full range of emotion.” Abelard’s Planctus represents “the searing personal anguish of Dinah in the face of Shechem’s downfall and death”; Abelard’s Dinah displays “very human suffering.” Thibodeau (1990) pp. 241-2. Part of the problem is that scholars today seem unable to fathom medieval women’s loving concern for men.

[4] E.g Genesis 4:1, in the Vulgate, “Adam vero cognovit Havam uxorem suam {And Adam knew his wife Eve}.” Similarly, Genesis 19:8, “habeo duas filias quae necdum cognoverunt virum {I have two daughters who have never known a man}.”

[5] Genesis 34:31. Ruys comments:

This defense clearly recalls what Abelard has described as Fulbert’s justification for commissioning his castration, namely, the belief that Abelard had used and then put aside his niece to the lasting shame of the family. Not surprisingly, in a lament in which Sechem is intended to appear undeserving of his fate, this consideration has to be excised.

Ruys (2014) p. 82. Ruys apparently assumes that Shechem actually did treat Dinah as a whore, and Abelard similarly treated Heloise. I think neither are true. Abelard’s Dinah seems to me to make a compelling critique of the claim that Shechem treated her as a whore.

[6] I’ve inserted “Jewish,” which isn’t in the Latin, in front of “proselyte” for clarity. Ruys has for the subsequent verse, “incapable of removing the foreskin of shame.” Above I’ve rephrased that line to clarifying that being a proselyte isn’t related to being incapable of removing the shame of being falsely charged with raping Dinah.

[7] According to Ruys:

Abelard has Dinah enunciate in the Planctus Dine a doctrinal discussion of the Old Testament covenant of circumcision and its efficacy. Her lament revealed the failure of circumcision as a means of salvation, as she regretted that in Sechem’s case, it proved ineffective in preventing his death

Ruys (214) pp. 85. That seems to me a cramped and wooden reading of Planctus Dine filie Iacob. Woe to wretched men, so badly understood.

[8] Ruys argues that Abelard elides Shechem’s love for Dinah because “mutual love plays no part in the lament that Abelard’s Dinah speaks.” Ruys (2014) p. 81. Abelard’s Planctus seems to me best understood as an addition to the biblical account. Its reciprocity works as part of an over-all poetic form that includes Genesis 34 and Abelard’s Planctus.

[9] Abelard may have known Hebrew or had access to teaching from a learned Jew. Thibodeau (1990) pp. 245-7. Abelard thus may have had access to a more accurate translation of Genesis 34 than the Vulgate provides. From another perspective, Abelard might have meant the juridical framework in Dinah’s exoneration of Shechem to be interpreted ironically. That’s more plausible than Abelard using irony in the ending of his Planctus Israel super Sanson. Cf. Dronke (1970) pp. 137-45.

[10] In the first line quoted above, for sic Ruys translated “so.” I’ve changed that to “rightly.” The latter word brings in a broader interpretative context that’s helpful for understanding the line.

For the second stanza quoted above, Ruys translates:

An age light and youthful, less wise,
ought to have borne less punishment from the wise.

“Leuis etas iuuenilis” seems to me not an abstract reference to “an age,” but a specific reference to “a man” (Shechem). The Latin lines end in “wise” and “punishment.” I think that’s a significant poetic structure. I’ve preserved it above.

[11] Ruys translation has “youth to be pitied.” The Latin text more specifically refers to one young man (Shechem). Thus above I’ve used “young man.” Ruys’ translates strages as “slaughter.” Animals are slaughtered for their meat. I’ve used the word “massacre” to emphasize that men are human beings.

Dronke perceptively interpreted Planctus Dine filie Iacob, but didn’t quite go far enough:

The almost identical refrain, sung first for herself {Dinah} and then for him {Shechem}, reinforces the bond between them. Through this she reveals to herself her true feelings for him, feelings that begin in pity but reach out into love. They express themselves first in anger: his fate is unjust — the fault was small, the punishment far too great. Her own brothers are hateful, their righteousness having been only a pretext for their base cruelty. Then her thoughts move to love: if a true impulse of love was there, as she knows it was, can even the violation of a young girl be judged a grievous fault? Her brothers talked of family honour — was it not an honour too that he, a prince, should have wanted her so much as not only to possess her but to ask his kindred’s leave “to marry an alien”? Suddenly, with this thought, her love and admiration for him blossom so much that her final words extend this love and admiration to his whole people (gens tanta), to those whom her family had taught her to regard as “the enemy race” (plebs adversa).

Dronke (1970) pp. 114-5. Shechem’s “whole people” and “the enemy race” are Abelard’s astonishingly insightful metaphors for men as gynocentrism represents men to women.

[12] Irvine (1997) argues that Abelard “engaged in a project of remasculinization” for himself. Wheeler (1997), reversing her claims about remasculinization, argues that despite being punitively castrated, Abelard remained as oppressive as men have always been. Abelard was no vicious, jealous eunuch of the sort so prevalent under castration culture. Abelard sought to overturn castration culture for the benefit of all women and men. In her analysis, Ruys concludes that Planctus Dine reflects the voice of Abelard, “a man with particular axes to grind and some things he would rather hide.” Ruys (2014) p. 83. In reality, much scholarly study of Abelard in recent decades has borne axes to grind and things to hide.

Ferroul (1997) rightly points out the castration of Abelard probably meant excising only his testicles. If Abelard’s penis had also been cut off, he probably would have died from complications associated with urination and infection. Men who have their testicles excised in adulthood remain capable of engaging in erection labor. Moreover, in having sex of reproductive type, such men don’t risk contributing to a pregnancy. Ferroul goes on to argue:

His blissful castration enabled Abelard to become what he really wanted to be: a paragon of a Christian and the greatest of philosophers

Ferroul (1997) p. 144. That’s absurd. Like other forms of male genital mutilation, castration hurts men. Some men who aren’t castrated become malicious gynocentric apparachiki. Despite his castration, Abelard was no despicable eunuch. Even as a castrated man, he was an admirable Christian, a great philosopher, and an under-appreciated advocate for gender justice.

Irvine (1997), Wheeler (1997), and Ferroul (1997) were all published in a book entitled Becoming Male in the Middle Ages. That book and its contents should be understood with respect to a peculiar social construction of scholarly merit in the humanities. Willful ignorance of biology and non-empirical beliefs about the population evolution of reproducing organisms contribute to prestige within that peculiar social construction of scholarly merit. Of course, men who act like eunuchs can choose to act like men in their middle ages or even as old men.

[images] (1) The massacre of the men of Shechem. Copper engraving (excerpt) made by Caspar Luyken in the Netherlands about 1700, perhaps for his Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae. Preserved in Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 172, via Wikimedia Commons. (2) The massacre of the men of Shechem. Image in book by Flavius Josephus, published in 1704. Via Pitts Theology Library. (3) The massacre of the men of Shechem. Image in book by Nicolas Fontaine, L’histoire dv Vieux et dv Nouveau Testament : representée avec des figvres & des explications édifiantes, tirées des SS. PP. pour regler les moeurs dans toute sorte de conditions, published in Paris in 1670. Via Pitts Theology Library.


Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, and Bonnie Wheeler, eds. 1997. Becoming Male in the Middle Ages. New York: Garland Publishing.

Dronke, Peter. 1970. Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages: New departures in poetry 1000-1150. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Ferroul, Yves. 1997. “Abelard’s Blissful Castration.” Pp. 129-150 in Cohen & Wheeler (1997).

Irvine, Martin. 1997. “Abelard and (Re)Writing the Male Body: Castration, Identity, and Remasculinization.” Pp. 87-106 in Cohen & Wheeler (1997).

Joseph, Alison L. 2016. “Understanding Genesis 34:2: ‘Innâ.” Vetus Testamentum. 66 (4): 663-668.

Kugel, James L. 2006. The Ladder of Jacob: ancient interpretations of the biblical story of Jacob and his children. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Musija, Zlatko. 2014. “The Function and Meaning of Genesis 34 — The Story of Dinah in its Context.” In Bruinsma, Reinder, ed. Faith in search of depth and relevancy: festschrift in honour of Dr Bertil Wiklander. St. Albans, UK: Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Ruys, Juanita Feros. 2014. The Repentant Abelard: family, gender and ethics in Peter Abelard’s Carmen ad Astralabium and Planctus. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmsillan.

Sweeney, Eileen. 2016. “Abelard’s Christian Socratism.” Pp. 101-121 in Bequette, John P., ed. A Companion to Medieval Christian Humanism: essays on principal thinkers. Leiden: Brill.

Thibodeau, Lucille Claire. 1990. The relation of Peter Abelard’s Planctus Dinae to biblical sources and exegetic tradition: a historical and textual study. Ph.D. Thesis. Harvard University.

Wheeler, Bonnie. 1997. “Origenary Fantasies: Abelard’s Castration and Confession.” Pp. 107-128 in Cohen & Wheeler (1997).

Wolde, Ellen van. 2002. “Does innâ denote rape?: a semantic analysis of a controversial word.” Vetus Testamentum. 52 (4): 528-544.

Simeon and Levi slaughter men of Shechem

hateful castration culture: castrated Abelard disparaged & demeaned

castration of Saturn

Today, castration culture tends to treat men made into eunuchs as honorary women. Even if those men don’t have all the legal privileges that women have, they don’t bear the stigma of acting masculine. What man wouldn’t sit with his legs tightly crossed and his testicles brutally squeezed to avoid the crime of manspreading? The testicular harm is better than a man adding himself to the massive number of men incarcerated.[1] Castration culture was less finely honed and wielded in medieval Europe. In fact, Peter Abelard in twelfth-century France was disparaged and demeaned even as a castrated man.

Before he was castrated, Peter Abelard reportedly had strong, independent sexuality that challenged the historical repression of men’s sexuality. Fulk, a monk heading a monastic community at Deuil, near Paris, stated that Abelard allowed single women and whores to exploit him:

with regard to what was, as they say, your downfall, namely the love of single women, and the traps of their lust, with which they capture their whore-hounds, it seems better for me to remain silent rather than to say something not in keeping with our order or the rule of our religious life. … How much this small part of your body, which you have lost by the judgment and favor of omnipotent God, had injured you and did not cease injuring you as long as it remained, the diminution of your wealth teaches better than my words can show. In truth, whatever you were able to acquire by teaching in selling your knowledge, with the exception of food and what was needed for necessities, you did not cease to sink (as I have learned by report) into the maw of consuming fornication. The avaricious rapacity of whores took everything from you. No age has ever heard of a whore who wished to take pity on another or who spared available property of men seeking sex with them.

{ quod sic te, ut aiunt, pracipitem dedit, singularum scilicet feminarum amorem, et laqueos libidinis earum, quibus suos capiunt scortatores, melius mihi videor praeterire, quam aliquid dicere quod ordini nostro et regulae nostrae religionis non concordet. … Haec corporis particula, quam omnipotentis Dei judicio, et beneficio perdidisti, quantum tibi nocuerat, ac nocere, quandiu permansit, non desistebat, melius tuarum diminutio rerum, quam mea possit monstrare oratio, docet. Quidquid vere scientiae tuae venditione perorando praeter quotidianum victum et usum necessarium, sicut relatione didici, acquirere poteras in voraginem fornicariae consumptionis domergere non cessabas. Avara meretricum rapacitas cuncta tibi rapuerat. Nulla audierunt saecula meretricem velle alteri misereri, vel pepercisse rebus appetitorum, quas quoquo modo auferre potuerant. } [2]

Just as many thought leaders advise men today, Fulk told Abelard that he was better off castrated:

You should also consider it a great advantage that, no longer a suspect person, you may be received with the utmost safety as a guest by every host. The husband shall not fear from you his wife’s violation or the shattering of his marriage bed. With the utmost decency you shall you pass through the ranks of matrons without any violations. The choirs of virgins radiant in the flower of their youth – they who can usually kindle even old men to the heat of lust with their motions (even though old men are already deprived of the heat of the flesh) – you shall gaze upon safely and sinless, since you do not fear their walk and their traps. … And after the fluctuations of this most fragile fragility of men’s sexuality, the great gift of God in this situation to my mind is that just as you shall certainly not feel the nocturnal illusions of erotic dreams, so it is certain that, even if the will should be there, no effect will follow. A wife’s soft words and the touch of bodies, without which one cannot serve a wife, and the extraordinary care of children (by which you are less pleasing to God) – none of these shall hold you back. How great a good do you think it is that you have been removed from the dangers of sinning and settled in the safety of not sinning? Now you shall proudly be able to avoid the lion-like ferocity that whores show to those coming to them for the first time, the trickery of their snake-like deception, and the incontinence of their captivating luxury. You will know what I am talking about from experience better than I am able to explain in words.

{ Hoc quoque magni existimare debes, quod nulli suspectus, ab omni hospite hospes tutissime recipiaris. Maritus uxoris violationem ex te, vel lectuli concussionem minime formidabit. Decentissime ornatarum turmas matronarum inviolabiliter pertransibis. Virginum choros flore juventutis splendentium, quae etiam senes jam calore carnis destitutos suis motibus in fervorem libidinis inflammare consueverunt, non timens earum incessus et laqueos, securus et sine peccato miraberis. … Et omnino post hos hujus fragilissimae fragilitatis fluxus, quod magnum Dei gratiae munus in hoc ordine aestimo, nocturnas somniorum illusiones te minime sentire ita certum est, sicut certum est quoniam voluntatem, si forte aderit, nullus sequetur effectus. Blanditiae uxoris corporumque contactus, sine quo uxor haberi non potest, ac liberorum cura singularis, quominus Deo placeas minime retardabunt. Quam magnum aestimas bonum, peccandi periculis te subtrahi, et in non peccandi securitate constitui? Leoninam itaque meretricum ferociam, quam primum ad se introeuntibus ostendunt, serpentinae deceptionis astutiam, captivae earum luxuriae incontinentiam poteris vitare superbus. Quod loquor melius de reliquo rerum experientia es cogniturus, quam verbis valeam explicare. }

According to Fulk’s taunting words, the castrated Abelard could now avoid a first-time encounter with whores, the circumstances of which Abelard already knew from experience. Fulk offered to Abelard as instructive examples men who “rejoice in lacking genitals {gaudent genitalibus caruisse}.” What’s sorely lacking in Fulk’s letter is the heart-felt compassion and pity truly owed to a castrated man.

Abelard’s former teacher Roscelin of Compeigne treated him even worse. Growing beyond his teacher Roscelin, Abelard became a teacher who taught his students not just grammar, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, theology, and dialectics, but also love — the most important subject. Roscelin viciously disparaged Abelard for helping Heloise learn about love:

Not sparing the virgin entrusted to you whom you should have protected as entrusted to you and taught as a disciple, you were whipped up by a spirit of unrestrained debauchery and taught her not to argue, but to fornicate.

{ commissae tibi virgini non parcens, quam conservare ut commissam, docere ut discipulam debueras, effreno luxuriae spiritu agitatus non argumentaris, sed eam fornicari docuisti } [3]

Who enjoys arguing? Sexual love warms human lives. Without it, humanity would have long ago ceased to exist. Nothing is more important to teach than love. Anticipating modern, comprehensive criminalization of men seducing women, Roscelin found Abelard guilty of many crimes for having consensual sex with Heloise. Roscelin declared castration divine justice for Abelard’s crimes:

In one deed you are guilty of many crimes, namely of betrayal and fornication. You are a most foul destroyer of virginal modesty. But the God of vengeance, the Lord God of vengeance, has acted freely. He has deprived you of that part by which you have sinned.

{ in uno facto multorum criminum, proditionis scilicet et fornicationis reus, et virginei pudoris violator spurcissimus. Sed Deus ultionum, Dominus Deus ultionum, libere egit, qui ea qua tantum parte peccaveras te privavit. }

Today major media mendaciously report that nearly a quarter of men have raped women. God is not so fraudulent. The God of vengeance that Roscelin invokes is an incomplete representation of God. That God is also just and merciful. Gynocentric ideology in action, not God, castrated Abelard.[4]

Roscelin disparaged Abelard with the sort of pseudo-sophistication and sarcasm now prevalent in elite discourse. Writing before laws prohibited referring to a person by the wrong name or wrong-gender pronoun, Roscelin challenged Abelard identifying himself as Peter:

I’m unable to find a name by which I can consider you. Yet, to be sure, you are lying that you can be called ‘Peter’ from conventional usage. I’m certain that a noun of masculine gender, if it falls away from its own gender, will refuse to signify its usual thing. For proper nouns usually lose their significance when the things signified fall back from their own completion. A house is not called a house but an incomplete house when its walls and roof are removed. Therefore since the part that makes a man has been removed, you are to be called not ‘Peter’ but ‘incomplete Peter.’ It suits this heap of incomplete human disgrace that in the seal by which he seals his stinking letters he himself forms an image having two heads, one a man and the other a woman. This being the case, and he does not blush to honor her in such a conjunction of heads, who can doubt how much he still burns with love for her? I have decided to say many true and obvious things against your attack, but since I am writing against an incomplete man, I will leave the letter I began incomplete.

{ quo nomine te censeam, reperire non valeo. Sed forte Petrum te appellari posse ex consuetudine mentieris. Certus sum autem, quod masculini generis nomen, si a suo genere deciderit, rem solitam significare recusabit. Solent enim nomina propria significationem amittere, cum eorum significata contigerit a sua perfectione recedere. Neque enim ablato tecto vel pariete domus, sed imperfecta domus vocabitur. Sublata igitur parte, quae hominem facit, non Petrus, sed imperfectus Petrus appellandus es. Ad huius imperfecti hominis ignominiae cumulum vero pertinet, quod in sigillo, quo foetidas illas litteras sigillavit, imaginem duo capita habentem, unum viri, alterum mulieris, ipse formavit. Unde quis dubitet, quanto adhuc in eam ardeat amore qui tali eam capitum coniunctione non erubuit honorare? Plura quidem in tuam contumeliam vera ac manifesta dictare decreveram, sed quia contra hominem imperfectum ago, opus quod coeperam imperfectum relinquo. } [5]

As Roscelin suggested, Abelard’s seal probably indicated his continuing, burning love for Heloise:

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
passion as fierce as the grave;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
A raging flame. [6]

{ שימני כחותם על־לבך כחותם על־זרועך כי־עזה כמות
אהבה קשה כשאול קנאה רשפיה רשפי אש שלהבתיה }

After he was brutally castrated, Peter Abelard continued to identify as a man. He also continued to love Heloise. Peter wasn’t an “incomplete man.” He was a man whom hateful gynocentric ideology had horribly wounded. Many men today are similarly wounded. These men deserve respect, compassion, and justice.

In France late in the thirteenth century, the brilliant Jean de Meun in Le Roman de la Rose {The Romance of the Rose} had a figure appropriately called Genius explain the terrible harm of castration. Genius spoke with justified moral outrage that extends to broader concerns of men’s sexed protest and gender injustices:

But certainly, if we tell the truth, anyone who castrates a worthy man does him a very great shame and injury. Even though I may say nothing about his great shame and discomfort, anyone who takes away a man’s testicles robs him at least, without a doubt, of the love of his sweetheart, no matter how closely she was bound to him. Or if he is married, as he might be, his affairs will go so badly that he will lose the love of his loyal wife, no matter how good-natured she was. It is a great sin to castrate a man. Anyone who castrates a man robs him not just of his testicles, and his sweetheart whom he holds very dear and whose fair face he will never see, and his wife. These are the least he loses. He robs him especially of the boldness in human ways, the boldness that should exist in valiant men. We are certain that castrated men are perverse and malicious cowards because they have the ways of women. Certainly no eunuch has any bravery whatsoever in him, unless perhaps in doing some vice, something very malicious. All women are very bold at doing deeds of great devilishness. Eunuchs resemble them in this respect. In particular, the castrator, even though he may not be a murderer or a thief or have committed any mortal sin, at least he has sinned to the extent of doing Nature a great wrong in stealing the means of procreating. No one, no matter how well he has thought about it, could excuse him for it. At least I couldn’t, for if I think about it and tell the truth, I could wear out my tongue before I could excuse the castrator for such a sin, such a wrong as he has committed toward Nature.

{ Mes certes, qui le voir an conte,
mout fet a prodome grant honte
et grant domage qui l’escoille;
car qui des coillons le despoille,
ja soit ce neïs que je tese
sa grant honte et sa grant mesese,
au mains, de ce ne dout je mie,
li tost il l’amour de s’amie,
ja si bien n’iert a lui lïez ;
ou s’il est, espoir, marïez,
puis que si mal va ses afferes,
pert il, ja tant n’iert deboneres,
l’amour de sa leal moillier.
Granz pechiez est d’ome escoillier.
Anseurquetout cil qui l’escoille
ne li tost pas, san plus, la coille
ne s’amie que tant a chiere,
don ja mes n’avra bele chiere,
ne sa moillier, car c’est du mains,
mes hardemant et meurs humains
qui doivent estre en vaillanz homes;
car escoillié, certain an somes,
sunt couart, pervers et chenins,
por ce qu’il ont meurs femenins.
Nus escoilliez certainemant
n’a point en sai de hardemant,
se n’est, espoir, en aucun vice,
por fere aucune grant malice,
car a fere granz deablies
sunt toutes fames trop hardies:
escoilliez en ce les resamblent,
por ce que leur meurs s’entresemblent.
Anseurquetout li escoillierres,
tout ne soit il murtriers ne lierres
ne n’ait fet nul mortel pechié,
au mains a il de tant pechié
qu’il a fet grant tort a Nature
de lui tolir s’angendreüre.
Nus escuser ne l’an savroit,
ja si bien pansé n’i avroit,
au meins gié; car, se g’i pensoie
et la verité recensoie,
ainz porroie ma langue user
que l’escoilleür escuser d
e tel pechié, de tel forfet,
tant a ver Nature forfet. } [7]

Even if you care nothing for men’s lives, you should oppose castration, because castration is war on women.[8]

A world-wide day of mourning and remembrance for castrated men would serve social justice much more than Dicks Out for Harambe. Our modern educational institutions now do little more than perpetuate ignorance and bigotry. Most students don’t study medieval Latin literature, and they know nothing of Peter Abelard. The few students who study medieval Latin literature might be taught that Abelard’s masculinity was bad, and that after being castrated he sought to remasculinize himself, which is also bad.[9] Not surprisingly, most men today lack the courage and strength to thrust against gynocentrism. Women must take responsiblity for leading the struggle against castration culture and gynocentrism.

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[1] As Silverman unwittingly recognized, “Our dominant fiction … urges both the male and female subject … to deny all knowledge of male {sic} castration … {as subsequently negotiated in many words}.” Silverman (1992) p. 42. Others have recognized the ubiquity of castration culture:

Far from originating in twentieth-century culture, the castration crisis is a cultural constant in the West, negotiated and renegotiated in each era, particularly by reference to ancient mythic representations of castration.

Desmond & Sheingorn (2003) p. 57. Castration culture is easly recognized in much modern scholarship. The physical reality of male genitals is sorely lacking. While many men have written, men’s writers are scarcely known; the masculine pen is painfully absent.

[2] Fulk, Prior of Deuil, Letter to Peter Abelard, Latin text from Patrologia Latina via Heloïsa und Abaelard, English trans. North (1998) (adapted slightly). Fulk (also known as Fulco) wrote this letter in 1117 or 1118. All subsequent quotes from Fulk’s letter are similarly sourced. The Latin text of Patrologia Latina’s collection of letters of Abelard and Heloise are available here.

[3] Roscelin of Compiegne, Letter to Abelard {Epistola ad Abaelardum} Latin text from Patrologia Latina 178:369BC, via Heloïsa und Abaelard, English trans. (adapted slightly) from Mews (2005) p. 59. Roscelin wrote this letter about 1120 in response to Abelard making a written attack on him for heresy. The subsequent quote above is similarly from id.

[4] Abelard understood his castration to be against God’s law. Murphy (2004). Roscelin taunted Abelard with the threat of further “divine” punishment:

But you should intensely fear that divine justice will make what happened to your penis also happen to your tongue. You used to prick with your penis promiscuously, and you were deservedly deprived of it due to your indecency. Similarly, your tongue, with which you now sting, may too be taken away from you.

{ Sed valde tibi divina metuenda est justitia, ne, sicut cauda qua prius, dum poteras, indifferenter pungebas, merito tuae immunditiae tibi ablata est, ita et lingua, qua modo pungis, auferatur. }

Roscelin further developed his insinuation that the castrated Abelard had shifted to cunnilingus. Immediately after writing that God has “deprived you of that part by which you have sinned {parte peccaveras te privavit},” Roscelin wrote:

For it was from this part that the rich man buried in Hell burned all the more the more he sinned, when he demanded that his tongue be cooled with a drop of water.

{ Ea enim de parte dives in inferno sepultus qua plus peccaverat plus ardebat, cum linguam suam gutta aquae refrigerari poscebat. }

Roscelin thus insinuates that Abelard desires to get his tongue wet with a woman. Cunnilingus was an activity of concern in medieval men’s sexed protest. For both the above quotes from Roscelin’s letter to Abelard, the Latin text is from Patrologia Latina, with my English translations.

[5] Roscelin of Compiegne, Letter to Abelard, Latin text and English translation (adapted insubstantially) from Irvine (1997) pp. 91-2.

[6] Song of Solomon 8:6. On metaphorical use of seals, Fulton Brown (2005) Ch. 5. In his Tractatus de unitate et trinitate divina, Abelard analogized the Trinity to bronze, a seal of bronze, and the impression in wax made by the bronze seal. Abelard, Theologia scholarium 2.463.1653-60. Church officials condemned that theological metaphor as heretically denying the unity of the Trinity.

[7] Guillaume Lorris & Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose {The Romance of the Rose} ll. 20037-94, Old French text from Lecoy (1970), English trans. (adapted slightly) from Dahlberg (1995) pp. 329-30. Here’s an alternate Old French text.

[8] Fulk highlighted women’s lamenting about Abelard’s castration:

How shall I relate the lament of single women who, upon hearing the news, streaked their faces with tears, in the way that women do, for the sake of you, their knight whom they had lost, just as if each had discovered that her husband or lover had been killed in battle?

{ Quid singularum feminarum referam planctum, quae sic, hoc audito, lacrymis, more femineo, ora rigarunt, propter te militem suum, quem amiserant, ac si singulae virum suum aut amicum sorte belli reperissent exstinctum? }

Fulk, Letter to Peter Abelard.

[9] E.g. Wheeler (1997), Irvine (1997). Like men’s lifespan shortfall relative to women’s lifespan, castration culture tends not to be taken seriously. Consider a poem probably written about 1130:

Two jewels, Gaul, adorned you once:
Mathias the consul and Peter the philosopher,
one the glory of knighthood, the other light of the clergy.
A single cut removed from you both jewels.
Envious fate took away both these exalted men’s genitals.
Unlike cause made them alike in wound.
The consul was condemned by a just charge of adultery.
The philosopher fell by supreme betrayal.

{ Ornavere due te quondam, Gallia, gemme:
Mathias consul philosophusque Petrus.
Milicie decus hic, cleri lux extitit ille.
Plaga tibi gemmas abstulit una duas,
Invida sors summos privat genitalibus ambo,
Dispar causa pares vulnere fecit eos,
Consul adulterii damnatur crimine iusto,
Philosophus summa prodicione ruit. }

Latin text and English translation (adapted) from Dronke (1992) pp. 281, 263. Full Latin available via Heloïsa und Abaelard. The above poem refers to the castration of Peter Abelard and Mathias the consul. Mathias was probably Mathias, Count of Nantes and son of Duke Hoel. Both Mathias and Abelard were from the same region of Gaul. Duke Hoel was overlord of Abelard’s family. Id. p. 264. As these two castrations suggest, castration was more prevalent in ancient and medieval Europe than is commonly recognized. Nonetheless, the poet plays with verbal similarities between cutting off (both) testicles from a man, and castrating two men.

Like many scholars have, a leading medieval scholar of the twentieth century made castration culture into justification for pathologizing men. Discussing an eleventh-century French pilgrim’s reported self-castration, this scholar declared:

The idea of emasculation was linked to horror of women … men were terrified of women.

Duby (1983) p. 147. That’s abstract psychologizing and despicable victim-blaming. Medieval men loved women. Medieval men also had reason to fear women, just as men do today. Gynocentric society today, following medieval gynocentrism, teaches that men are morally defective and that masculinity is “toxic.” That’s the most relevant ideological link to emasculation.

[image] Castration of Saturn. In the middle on the far left, Venus emerges from an additional instance of Saturn’s genitals. Illumination from manuscript instance of Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose. Color-enhanced excerpt from folio 41r. Probably made about 1403 in the region of Paris. Preserved as Biblioteca Històrica València, MS 387.


Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, and Bonnie Wheeler, eds. 1997. Becoming Male in the Middle Ages. New York: Garland Publishing.

Dahlberg, Charles, trans. 1995. Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun. The Romance of the Rose. 3rd ed. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Desmond, Marilynn, and Pamela Sheingorn. 2003. Myth, Montage, and Visuality in Late Medieval Manuscript Culture: Christine de Pizan’s Epistre Othea. Ann Arbor, Mich: University of Michigan Press.

Dronke, Peter. 1992. Intellectuals and poets in Medieval Europe. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura. Ch. 9 (pp. 247-294) reprints Dronke, Peter. 1976. Abelard and Heloise in Medieval testimonies: the twenty-six W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture delivered in the University of Glasgow 29th October, 1976. Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press.

Duby, Georges. 1983. The Knight, the Lady, and the Priest: the making of modern marriage in medieval France. New York: Pantheon Books.

Fulton Brown, Rachel. 2005. From Judgment to Passion: devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200. New York: Columbia University Press.

Irvine, Martin. 1997. “Abelard and (Re)Writing the Male Body: Castration, Identity, and Remasculinization.” Pp. 87-106 in Cohen & Wheeler (1997).

Lecoy, Félix, ed. 1970. Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun. Le roman de la rose. Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion (online: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).

Mews, Constant J. 2005. Abelard and Heloise. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (review by Linda M. Rouillard)

Murphy, Sean Eisen. 2004. “The letter of the law: Abelard, Moses, and the problem with being a eunuch.” Journal of Medieval History. 30 (2): 161-185.

North, W.L., trans. 1998. “Fulk, Prior of Deuil: Letter to Peter Abelard, (Epistola XIV).” From the edition in Patrologia Latina 178, cols.371-376, with omissions in the Migne text from text edited by Damien van den Eynde, O.F.M., “Détails biographiques sur Pierre Abélard,” Antonianum 38 (1963): 217-223 at 219. Online in the Internet Medieval Source Book, Fordham University.

Silverman, Kaja. 1992. Male Subjectivity at the Margins. New York: Routledge.

Wheeler, Bonnie. 1997. “Origenary Fantasies: Abelard’s Castration and Confession.” Pp. 107-128 in Cohen & Wheeler (1997).

wife calling husband home in the shadow of Corpus Juris Civilis

Tree of Affinity in Gratian's Decretum

Scholars in twelfth-century Bologna recovered for western Europe the Corpus Juris Civilis. That’s the body of Roman law systematically compiled under the sixth-century Roman Emperor Justinian. Study of the Corpus Juris Civilis in medieval Bologna established the field of jurisprudence — “the practical science of giving wise interpretation to the laws and making a just application of them to all cases.”[1] In the shadow of Corpus Juris Civilis and jurisprudence was medieval love literature addressing the problem of a wife with a long-absent husband.  Working at the heart of Roman law’s revival at the University of Bologna early in the thirteenth century, the brilliantly transgressive scholar Boncompagno recognized that law and jurisprudence are a poor substitute for heartfelt love.

Marriage has long been a matter of legal concern. Marriage under Roman law was an extensively elaborated contractual arrangement that required the consent of both parties. Roman marital law informed the medieval Christian doctrine of marriage as a conjugal partnership of equals requiring consent for validity. Roman family law had considerably less anti-men bias than modern family law. Yet men in ancient Rome with good reason were reluctant to marry. Even before Christians proclaimed that Jesus enacted the law of God’s love written on human hearts, perceptive persons surely recognized that law affects love.[2]

medieval law in action

In Bologna, Boncompagno set out model cases of women with absent husbands. Among a series of hypotheticals he proposed:

Suppose that another woman has a husband or lover who has gone off into a remote region and isn’t concerned to return.

{ Pone quod aliqua virum vel amicum habeat qui abiit in regionem longinquam nec reverti procurat } [3]

A wife might take legal action against a husband who failed to return to her. Boncompagno, however, offered a more excellent way. He set out a model love-letter for the wife to send to her husband to call him back to her:

Waiting, I have awaited my desire, the other half of my body, the light of my eyes, my first joy and lover. And now, after five years, I still remain alone, believing that with my corporal eyes I would see him without whom I see nothing nor would be able to see, unless by his presence he brought clear light to me. The dove returned to Noah through the window, bearing a branch of green olive as a token of gladness. I pray that my dearest one return, that he give life to her who, because of him, dies and yet is unable to die. If he doesn’t return I shall be like a turtle-dove who has lost her husband. In her fashion I have always loved and exceedingly desire to love. For she, having lost her mate, doesn’t sit upon a verdant branch. She sits upon a dry one and constantly laments with piteous voice. She disturbs the clear water when she desires to drink and expects no consolation but death. Thus shall I live and thus shall I die if I am unable to possess your ardently desired presence.

{ Expectans expectavi desiderium meum, alteram mei corporis partem, oculorum meorum lumen, primum dilectum et amicum; et iam lapso quinquennio, solivaga permansi credens illum videre corporeis oculis sine quo nichil video nec videre potero, nisi michi sue presentie contulerit claritatem. Rediit ad Noe columba per fenestram, ramum virentis olive in signum letitie reportans. Revertatur, queso, dilectissimus meus ut illam faciat vivere que pro illo moritur nec mori potest; alioquin faciam sicut turtur que suum perdit maritum, ad instar cuius amavi semper et amare peropto. Illa quidem postea non sedet in ramo viridi, sed gemit in sicco voce flebili iugiter et aquam claram turbat cum appetit bibere, nullumque nisi mortis prestolatur solatium. Sic ego vivam sicque moriar, si vestra desiderabili non potero presentia potiri. }

What husband wouldn’t be moved by such a letter from his wife? Such a wife offers a husband much more than merely getting him a beer while he is watching college basketball on television. This model love-letter apparently drew upon Aristophanes’s description of wholeness in love in Plato’s Symposium and allegorical understanding of light and seeing in Plato’s Republic and his Phaedrus.[4] The model love-letter may have drawn upon well-developed Arabic love literature coming into Europe through southern Italy or Iberia. In any case, the love-letter is a model of passionate learning.

In ancient and medieval times, women delighted in having sex with men. Another of Boncompagno’s model letters for a woman to call back her lover draws upon the image of the mourning turtle-dove, but it also asserts the power of the woman’s imagination:

Sitting on a dry branch branch like a turtle-dove, I mourn incessantly, troubling the water I drink with my tears. Talking to myself in a tearful voice, I draw grievous sighs, for I know not where he is, he whom my soul loves, or rather he whose body is joined to my soul. Surely it is he who holds the keys to my life, he without whom I think life to be death. And when he is away I do not exist, yet as long as I exist he cannot be away, for I have caught him through my will and ineffable longing and keep him secretly locked in my memory.

{ Sedens more turturis in ramusculo sicco gemo assidue turbans potum cum bibo et mecum voce flebili colloquens traho suspiria dolorosa, quia scire non possum ubi sit quem diligit anima mea, jmmo illum cuius corpori anima est unita. Ille nimirum est qui tenet vite mee claves sine quo vivere mori esse puto, quia spiritus est amoris qui praecordia mea vivificando regirat et cum deest non sum et donec sum deesse non potest, quia per voluntatem et ineffabile desiderium illum apprehendi et in memoriali meo secretius teneo circumclusum } [5]

The woman goes on to imagine appreciatively and humanely her lover’s masculine sexual gifts:

As some specific cure, I press him like a bundle of myrrh between my breasts, with arms of most desiring love. … Whenever I lie in deep sleep, he enters through the door of my bedroom, puts his left hand under my head, and his right hand delightfully touches my riding-place and bosom, and with pressing lips he sweetly kisses me. He carries me off in his arms into a blossoming orchard in which rivulets gently flow. In this same garden nightingales and various kinds of birds sing sweet melodies, and all kinds of perfumes fill the air. And there, with embraces and our favorite conversations, we enjoy one another for a long time in this utterly desirable paradise.

{  ipsum velut mirre fasciculum sub quodam speciali remedio inter ubera mea brachiis peroptabilis dilectionis astringo. … quia semper cum sopori sum dedita, intrat per hostia thalami, ponit levam sub capite meo, dextra suavius tangit renes et pectus et comprensis labellis me dulcius osculatur. Transfert me super ulnas in pomerium florigerum in quo suavis est rivulorum decursus et in eodem philomene ac diversa genera volucrum dulciter modulantur. Sunt ibidem omnia genera coloramentorum sicque amplexibus et colloquiis peroptatis diutius ad invicem fruimur in tam desiderabili Paradiso. }

Men delight in pleasing women. Men appreciate appreciation for their masculine sexual labor. That’s fundamental masculine nature. But there’s more to this letter than a woman displaying her delightful memories of her absent lover. With this letter she seeks to call her lover back to her. She subtly does that by reminding him of his sexual experience with her, which was probably as delightful for him as it was for her. She then rhetorically challenges him:

This ineffable joy visits me every time I sleep. Why then should I want to call him back, since he does not cease visiting me in so delectable a manner, particularly since I know that without me he cannot live or die?

{ Et istud inenarrabile michi gaudium in omni sopore occurrit; cur ergo illum revocare optarem ex quo tam desiderabiliter non desinit visitare, praesertim cum sciam quod sine me vivere non poterit neque mori. }

She asserts her value to him (“without me he cannot live or die”), yet declares that he can do no more for her. A self-confident, masculine man would thrill to the challenge of doing more indeed for her in bed. He would return home.

Scholars studying the Corpus Juris Civilis and developing jurisprudence of marital law overshadowed love literature in medieval Bologna. Consider Boncompagno’s model letter “From a beautiful wife who is calling back her husband, who is sweating at literary studies {De uxore formosa que revocat maritum litterarum studio insudantem}.”[6] The description of the wife as “beautiful” and the husband as “sweating at literary studies” together ironically suggest that the husband’s study concerns love literature or Arthurian romance. The wife, in contrast, has been observing the study of jurisprudence prominent in early-thirteenth-century Bologna. Her attention to law will dominate his interest in literature, but not to the benefit of love.

In the letter of the beautiful wife calling back her husband from his study of literature, fault-finding, belittling, and legal threats replace expressing love. Her letter is short and vicious:

For more than two years you have lingered at the university, flagrantly breaking the promise you made. You seem not to remember that I am a woman and young. Every day I begin lamenting that neither rain nor dew descends upon my farm-land, and if only your finger doesn’t care for its wedding ring, I wish that it would dry up! Since you have neglected to return without delay, I know you must be reading in another’s Codex. I intend to study a little in the Digest.

{ Ultra biennium promissionis federe penitus violato fecisti moram in scolis, nec quod sim femina et iuvenis recordaris. Unde cotidie ingemisco quoniam super meum agrum ros vel pluvia non descendit, sed utinam arescat digitus qui potiri coniugali annulo non procurat. Sed scio quod legis in Codice alieno, unde si mora postposita non redieris, studere disposui aliquantulum in Digesto. }

Prior to recent decades, young women were thought to benefit from having sex with men. Rain and dew are associated with fertility and germination. Ovid’s Amores 2.15 closely associated a finger and ring with heterosexual intercourse. This letter’s reference to the husband’s finger drying up emphasizes the finger’s metaphorical function. The wife is threatening to curse her husband with the epic disaster of men’s impotence. These literary allusions would have been obvious to medieval readers. “Codex,” in contrast, functions in a rather unusual metaphor. In ancient and medieval literature, references to a young woman’s vagina typically praise that organ as having the beauty of a rose. Codex here apparently figures a woman’s vagina as having an external linear structure similar to the pages of a book. The wife is insinuating that her husband is sticking his nose into another woman’s vagina. Her response is to study her legal recourse according to the writing of Roman jurists compiled in the Digest of the Corpus Juris Civilis.[7] That was an unloving development that accompanied pioneering medieval study of the Corpus Juris Civilis in Bologna.

Family law today is a mockery of any reasonable standard of jurisprudence. Unfortunately, the failure that developed from the new study of Roman law in medieval Bologna goes further than bad law. Bad law tends to drive out good love. In early-thirteenth-century Bologna, Boncompagno wrote letters for women to call back their lovers with beautiful and moving expressions of love. An alternative that Boncompagno himself recognized is for the wife to threaten her husband with legal action under marital law, i.e. divorce. Within circumstances of oppressive gynocentrism and rape-culture culture, expressing love for men is scarcely conceivable today as a feasible solution to serious problems.

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Read more:


[1] Definition from Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, quoted in Pennington (2007) p. 44. The standard account of Roman law’s rebirth in medieval Bologna credits the eleventh-century scholar Pepo, followed by Irnerius, and then the “Four Doctors of Bologna”: Bulgarus, Martinus, Hugo, and Jacobus. On that account, which is based largely on the commentaries of thirteenth-century jurist Odofredus Denari, Pennington (2017). On the development of Roman law and its reception in medieval Europe, Atzeri (2017), Donahue (2018), Mather (2002) and McSweeney & Spike (2015). For a accessible guide to the Corpus Juris Civilis, Dingledy (2016). The great twelfth-century canonist Gratian, author of the Decretum, was also from Bologna.

American law schools today have astonishingly low intellectual standards. Study of law at the medieval University of Bologna shows that development of human reason is possible:

The medieval revival of ancient Roman law led to a vast improvement in the legal systems of Western Europe. What had been rather primitive bodies of law were transformed into modern and comprehensive systems, enlightened in their moral foundations and sophisticated in their practical details. In large part, this transformation was due to the skill with which medieval lawyers made careful and critical studies of ideas borrowed from legal history, comparative law, and philosophy. This skill was achieved by means of the curricular structure and teaching methods of the medieval law schools.

Mather (2002) p. 361.

[2] Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-13, 2 Corinthians 3:1-3.

[3] Boncompagno da Signa, Rota veneris {Wheel of Venus} 10.1, Latin text from Core (2015) p. 33, English translation from Purkart (1975) p. 84 (adapted to follow the Latin more closely). For a historical study of love letters as a literary genre, Navarro Gala (2012).

The subsequent quote from the corresponding letter in Rota veneris is sourced similarly. Purkart, following Baethgen’s Latin text, notes echoes in that letter of the Vulgate text for Psalms 40:1 and 38:11 in the modern Psalms numbering. On Noah and the dove, Genesis 10:11.

[4] The love-letter naturally doesn’t include allusions to the marriage and death of Socrates.

[5] Boncompagno da Signa, Rhetorica antiqua 1.24.10, “Of a woman who seeks to call back her lover {De muliere que amicum suum revocare intendit}” (also included in the Strassburg incunabulum of Boncompagno’s Rota veneris), Latin text from Core (2015) p. 61 (see also Basso (2015) pp. 178-9), English translation from Purkart (1975) pp. 89-90 (adapted slightly). The subsequent two quotes are from this letter and are similarly sourced. Dronke (1965) vol. 1, pp. 251-3 provides an alternate English translation, and id. vol. 2, p. 483-4, an alternate Latin text.

In twelfth-century France, Peter Abelard lovingly warned his son Astralabe against being absent at night from a wife:

If your wife doesn’t sleep with you, she will be downcast

{ Si non dormierit tecum, tristabitur uxor }

Carmen ad Astralabium 191, Latin text and English trans. from Ruys (2014).

In the subsequent quote, the Latin text sub quodam speciali remedio is contentious with respect to speciali. Dronke, transcribing MS Paris. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Lat. 8654. fol. 22r, has sub quodam spei remedio. Dronke (1965) vol. 2, p. 484. Basso, transcribing MS München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. lat. Mon. 23499, has sub quodam speciali remedio, and notes that MS Bibl. Apost. Vaticana, Arch. Cap. S. Pietro H 13 and MS Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Lat. 7732 have spei rather than speciali. Basso (2015) p. 179. Core has speciei with no textual note. Core (2015) p. 61. Purkart, translating the Strassburg incunabulum, reads spei. Purkart (1975) p. 89. I judge Basso to be the most authoritative, and thus follow her Latin text and provide the corresponding English translation.

[6] Boncompagno da Signa, Rhetorica antiqua 1.24.4, Latin text from Basso (2015) p. 175, my English translation, benefiting from that of Dronke (1965) vol. 2, p. 483, which also supplies an alternate Latin text. The meaning of literary studies can be more clearly understood in the previous letter, Rhetorica antiqua 1.24.3, which mockingly refers to Arthurian romance. Boncompagno read his Rhetorica antiqua publicly in Bologna in 1215.

[7] Navarro Gala interprets the wife to be threatening her husband with adultery. Navarro Gala (2012) p. 175. That interpretation doesn’t recognize the enormously important development of legal scholarship in twelfth-century Bologna.

[images] (1) Tree of Affinity (marriage). Illumination (excerpt) for Gratian’s Decretum, according to Bartholomew of Brescia, Glossa ordinaria, made in France or England, 1300-1310. From University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 262, fol. 71v. Until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, medieval law forbid marriage within seven degrees of consanguinity (relationship by blood) and affinity (relationship by marriage). (2) Cardinal acting as judge in administering medieval law. From Novella in Decretales, illumination by Nicolò di Giacomo di Nascimbene, made in Bologna about 1355 to 1365. From University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 331, fol. 1r.


Atzeri, Lorena. 2017. “Roman Law and Reception.” In European History Online (EGO), published by the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2017-11-20.

Basso, Martina. 2015. Il 1 Libro del Boncompagnus di Boncompagno da Signa: Edizione Critica e Glossario. Ph.D. Thesis. Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy).

Core, Luca. 2015. La Rota Veneris di Boncompagno da Signa. Edizione critica. Ph.D. Thesis. Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy).

Dingledy, Frederick W. 2016. “The Corpus Juris Civilis: A guide to its history and use.” Legal Reference Services Quarterly. 35 (4): 231-255.

Donahue, Charles Jr. 2018. Legal History: Continental Legal History. Lecture and Class Outlines and Assignment Links. Harvard Law School, Course 2165, and Harvard University, Medieval Studies 119. Spring, 2018.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Mather, Henry. 2002. “The Medieval Revival of Roman Law: Implications for Contemporary Legal Education.” The Catholic Lawyer. 41 (4): 323- 362.

McSweeney, Thomas J. and Michèle K. Spike. 2015. “The Significance of the Corpus Juris Civilis: Matilda of Canossa and the Revival of Roman Law.” Pp. 20-29 in Spike, Michèle K, ed. Matilda of Canossa & the origins of the Renaissance: an exhibition in honor of the 900th anniversary of her death. Williamsburg, VA: Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary.

Navarro Gala, M. Josefa. 2012. Retórica de la carta amatoria: de los orígenes a su manifestación en la prosa sentimental del siglo xv. ADDI (Universidad del Pais Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Spain).

Pennington, Kenneth. 2007. ‘The “Big Bang”: Roman Law in the Early Twelfth-Century.’ Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune. 18: 43-70. (typescript version)

Pennington, Kenneth. 2017. “Odofredus and Irnerius.” Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune. 28: 11-27.

Purkart, Josef. 1975. Rota veneris: facsimile reproduction of the Strasburg incunabulum. With English translation and notes. Delmar, N.Y.: Schola’s Facs. & Reprint.

Ruys, Juanita Feros. 2014. The Repentant Abelard: family, gender and ethics in Peter Abelard’s Carmen ad Astralabium and Planctus. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmsillan.