FEATURES: Crossing the Ancient Stage

Adest sponsus, qui est Christus
Performing the Male Monastic Body in Sponsus*

by James Whitta
Brown University
E-mail: James_Whitta@postoffice.brown.edu

The bilingual Latin-Provencal liturgical drama Sponsus (2), from the late eleventh/early twelfth century codex compiled at the monastery of Saint Martial at Limoges (Paris Bib. Nat. lat. 1139) (3), is a remarkable play for the study of monastic gender in the early medieval period. Although brief (87 lines), the play offers a complex vision of the ways in which a female-gendered self was configured for a male monastic audience in southern France in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (4). The plot dramatizes the parable of the wise and foolish virgins from the gospel of Matthew (25:1-13), beginning in medias res with the announcement of the arrival of the much-awaited bridegroom (line one: Adest sponsus, qui est Christus--vigilate, virgines!).

The play opens with a ten-line Latin speech by the personified figure of Ecclesia and an 'annunciation' (and minatory speech) by Gabriel to the Prudentes (lines 11-26), before dramatizing the foolish virgins (Fatue)' panic when they awake from their slumber to realize they have spilled all their lamp-oil (5). The central part of the play (lines 27-65) describes these virgins' appeal for oil to the wise virgins (Prudentes), their 'companions on the way and sisters of the same blood' (comites huius itineris et sorores eiusdem generis), who refuse their request for oil and direct them instead to the stalls of nearby vendentes (49). These oil-merchants have no oil to sell, however, and recommend that the Fatue, whom they address in Provencal courtly rhetoric as Domnas gentils ('noble/gentle ladies'), return to their sisters (seros) and ask them a second time for a donation (lines 67- 74).

Upon their arrival, however, the Fatue discover the sponsus (Christus) arrived and the door to the bridal chamber locked against them. Appeals to Christ to open the door (6) produce not only his refusal, but even his condemnation of them to hell (efern) (lines 83-7). The play then closes with the brutal stage direction, 'Now let the devils grab them and drag them down to hell' (Modo accipiant eas demones et precipitentur in infernum).

With a cast of male players from the monastic community taking the female roles of the ten virgins (7), the play offers a dynamic representation within the precincts of ritual space of the gendering of male, consecrated virgins. Though ostensibly aiming for the asexuality of angels through ascetic discipline and liturgical devotion, male monks who see themselves represented in Sponsus as female virgins yearning for the arrival of their bridegroom, the sponsus qui est Christus, construct a particularly gendered view of ascetic desire for Christ. The rhetoric of male marriage to Christ, which will be rendered canonical by Bernard of Clairvaux in his cycle of sermons on the Song of Songs (c.1125-53) (8), finds an early source in Sponsus' reading of the gospel parable. Most interestingly, the drama brings into focus powerful images of female sexuality with which to index an ideal male monastic self. And yet, gender is rendered problematic in the play by medieval understandings of female sexuality and the goal of the ascetic life itself. In the brief time allotted to me this morning, I'd like to explore Sponsus' framing of a gendered monastic subject as a function of these understandings.

It would appear that as often as the male self is gendered feminine in liturgical drama through role assignment, clothing, vocabulary, gesture, or typology, traditional (male) monastic rhetoric inveighs against women's sexuality as the feared other threatening to undermine male discipline and spirituality (9). Since 'woman' is signified transparently in the medieval period as the 'sexual' or the 'material,' monastic men fear their own physicality as containing the alien female other in embryo, a threatening feminine presence within themselves requiring exposure and rehabilitation (10). By subjecting the male body to rigorous ascetic redesign through the application of tropes of embodiedness centered upon a virginal female body, male monasticism attempts to cut to the heart of the 'matter,' resignifying femininity in masculine terms. By performing such redesigned female bodies in the ritual space of the liturgy, moreover, male monastics are able to envision the parameters of a transmuted, asceticized embodiedness for themselves and their communities through the deployment of a carefully scripted code of ritual gesture (11).

Liturgical drama, as a primary ritual gestural form produced and consumed by monks, is viewed as both an aid to devotion and a means of visualizing or uttering what is essential about the monastic vocation. Religious plays, performed within the schedule of daily activities defined by the Rule of St. Benedict, were considered an integral part of the monk's day, his idea of himself and his 'holy work,' the Opus Dei, the daily round of liturgical prayer organized according to the monastic horarium (12). As part of the Opus Dei performed within and for the community, liturgical drama represented the monastic community to itself.

It is here that gendering comes into 'play.' Monks, as celibate ascetics, are interpellated into a discourse of angelic asexuality developed by fourth- century desert hermits in Egypt and incorporated soon afterwards into Western monasticism by Jerome, John Cassian and others. The primary characteristic of the desert ethos is its desire for the angelic life: recruits to Egyptian monasticism are represented as dead to this world and reborn as angels: houtos angelos esti, kai ouk anthropos ('he is no longer a man, but an angel') is a common reply to anxious family members seeking their male relatives at the monastery gates. The increasingly prevalent rhetoric of male marriage to Christ in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, brings the issue of a very human, eroticized gender squarely onto center stage (13).

Patricia Cox Miller, in a series of perceptive articles on the gendering of early Christian ascetics, argues that the desert tradition's attempts to inscribe the self within a discourse of angelic asexuality is a 'performative ritual act' that brings into being bodies to be seen by an audience desiring mimetic identification with those bodies as their own. In this ascetic praxis, deficient, malleable, physically hindered 'sub-bodies' are reconstructed as 'bodies from nowhere': bodies which have no tangible correlate, but which point to an idealized prototype, the whole, unmediated, 'angelic super-body of the ascetic imagination,' (14). Cox Miller argues that, like ascetic bodies, ascetic texts can be read as 'texts from nowhere': i.e., ungrounded in the historical 'horizontal field,' in order to be less constrained by the 'sub-body' of human history and more exemplary or 'angelic' (15).

Staging male ascetic bodies as female virgins in a play like Sponsus attempts such a transformation: historically contingent, material, gendered bodies become 'bodies from nowhere' through an idealized, parabolic narrative, a 'text from nowhere' which transforms femininity and masculinity into tropes for angelic existence. The play demonstrates as well, in the Austinian illocutionary sense of 'bringing into being' (16) the pleasure of sight itself: seeing the 'other' helps the self construct an inner image as a correlate to external perception. The desert ascetic's desire to become an angel translates in monastic drama into the desire to see an angel performed before one's pleasured, desiring eyes: the self yearns for a visualization, a metaphoric representation of itself with which to map its interior cognitive terrain (17).

Cox Miller describes the general tenets of such 'texts from nowhere' in another article on a masterwork of ascetic literature, Jerome's letter to the young virgin woman, Eustochium. In this letter, Jerome composes a rhetoric in which 'the literal body [is 'erased'] and its dangerous sexual passions [and feminine gender] [rewritten] with Scriptural tropes' so that the gender and sexuality of the female virgin may become the site of a 'blazing' (spiritually gleaming and self-illumined) exemplarity for male and female monastics alike. In Jerome's configuration of asceticism, according to Cox Miller, the body's 'erotic sensibilities are both denied and intensified' (18). The physical female body is 'transmuted into a textual--specifically, a Scriptural--body' exemplary for male and female ascetics alike (19).

We could say that in Sponsus as well, the wise and foolish virgins become specular bodies for the audience of monastic men, 'transmuted' into canonical textual figures from the gospel of Matthew. In Sponsus' interpretation of the scriptural parable, the wise virgins become angelic bodies for the pleasured gaze of men, and the foolish virgins are figured as demonic. In the rubric introducing lines 11-27, which must be spoken by the archangel Gabriel (Gabriels soi, 'I am Gabriel,' he says in line 25), the Prudentes are mistakenly identified as the speaker. This 'accidental' conflation, I would submit, is hardly unpurposeful, but allows for a modelling of the wise virgins as an ideal angel--the archangel himself who announced the bridal relationship of the ideal Virgin, Mary, with God. Since this annunciation scene is not part of the parable in Matthew 25, furthermore, each of the wise virgins is equated with Mary herself as sponsa Christi, and in this way, the male monks who impersonate the wise virgins describe themselves as sponsae Christi in turn.

In a similar condensation of biblical images, the Fatue are not only rejected by Christ, who should be their heavenly bridegroom (sponsus) at the end of the play, but are utterly undone, inverted into brides of the devil (sponsae Diaboli) as they are dragged off to the aula of hell in the play's concluding rubrics (which are 'outside' the text of the biblical parable altogether) (20). Significantly, Christ's curse to the Fatue at lines 83-7 is a conflation of his final words in the parable, Amen dico vobis, nescio vos (Matt. 25:12), with Provencal verses rendering in a graphic vernacular style the final ('apocalyptic') section of Matthew 25 (verses 31-46), where Christ's curse sends evil-doers into 'the eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels' (Discedite a me maledicti in ignem aeternum, qui paratus est diabolo, et angelis eius, Matt.25:41).21 The foolish virgins are figured here, then, as anti-types to the wise virgins, as demonized angels cast into hell to become brides not for Christ, but the devil. The meter in which Christ sings his Latin curses at 83-4, incidentally, is the same as Ecclesia's at the opening of the play. But here again, Ecclesia's joyful announcement in lines 1-2 of Christ's arrival

Adest sponsus, qui est Christus--vigilate, virgines!-- pro adventu cuius gaudent et gaudebunt homines

is qualified by her stern exhortation to vigilance at the end of line one (vigilate, virgines!), a warning which situates the play in medias res as an eschatological reflection on the parable's last line: Vigilate itaque, quia nescitis diem, neque horam (Matt. 25:13).

The monastic playwright and interpretative community of the monastery in its performance of the play, then, splits the gender of 'the feminine' into multiple signs, of either mimetic transcendence (a return to angelic asexuality) or devolution into the ill-illumined sloth and demonic end of feminine 'materiality.' Both the wise and the foolish represent mirror-sides of the male monastic self, in fact, but the monk is exhorted to model himself carefully after the vigilant virgin espoused with Christ and to reject the panicked irresolution and ill-preparedness--the demonic physicality--of the virgin espoused to the devil.

But this is not all there is to say, obviously. What are we to do with the disruptive presence of Provencal in the text, the language of courtly aristocratic society in the south of France, where the play both originated and was performed? Does this bilingual play-text represent a concession to local taste? What does it utter about the gender of male monks using the play within liturgical space? I shall focus here on the last question, approaching the problem as simultaneously a grammatical issue. Sarah Kay, in her ground- breaking study of troubadour subjectivity, isolates the gender of the courtly love-object as intermediate between male and female, a 'mixed' gender or combination of the two (22). Following the lead of medieval grammarians, Kay suggests that

the poetry of the male troubadours does not divide the world simply into two genders but three: the masculine gender to which the troubadours belong; the feminine, to which most women belong; and the gender of the domna, which is mixed, partaking of both masculine and feminine (23).

According to Kay, 'the sexual world of the male-authored canso is therefore ordered in terms of a masculine-feminine hierarchy, and its supplementation by the domna' (24). As a mixed gender, the domna contains qualities of both male and female in one person: sexually a woman (erotically desireable to men yet free of the 'feminine' weaknesses of deceit, lechery, venality, loquacity, inconstancy or lack of ratio), as a man (midons or purveyor of a senhals), s/he is bound homosocially to the male-gendered speaker of the poem (the 'poet') by reciprocal ties of masculine feudal obligation, mutual respect and dispensation of privileges (25). This signifier, however, of what seems an ideal third sex with the best qualities of both socialized genders, and none of their faults, is used positively only in the singular in the examples Kay examines in her study. The plural, domnas, 'signals . . . not the exceptional 'mixed' domna but . . . the 'feminine' in general,' and so is derogated to the unloveable status of 'woman' (26).

In Sponsus, the climactic final lines of the conversation between the Prudentes and Fatue at lines 63-6, the refrain, Dolentas, chaitivas, trop i avem dormit! (27), and the exchange between the Mercatores and Fatue at lines 67-74 --the crux of the play--are written in Provencal verses which represent a composite picture of the foolish virgins as 'women' whose faults are very readily on display for the male audience of the monastic community. The Mercatores' first words of address to the Fatue clinch this picture of abject femininity: at line 67, the oil merchants, the only male-gendered human speakers in the play (other than Christ) inscribe the Fatue in the poetic texture of the play as Domnas gentils ('courtly/gentle ladies'), the damning plural which aligns them irredeemably with fallen 'womanish' sexuality and gender. For the playwright, such domnas 'fail to want what they ought to want, and do what they are forbidden to do,' to paraphrase Bernart de Ventadorn (28).

If, however, in Kay's words,

In projecting a semi-masculine identity onto the love object, the distinctions between self and other, subject and object, individual and social are all to some degree obscured, while the 'threat' of the 'feminine' is not always convincingly evaded (29)

this play nonetheless resolves the problem of gender dissonance. For male monastics acculturated in a Provencal-speaking region of Europe, whose ideas of themselves are beginning to be figured upon homiletic images of marriage with the sponsus of the Song of Songs, the play Sponsus allows for the performance of an 'angelic' identity in which the threat of physicality (and male homoeroticism) is relegated to domnas gentils, sexualized 'women' who foolishly wed the devil rather than the Christ.

For in what we must surely designate Christocentric drama, the actors in Sponsus engender male selves by visualizing an impersonated and personalized relationship with the Word--Christ, Scripture, and the verbal texture of the play itself. A triad of gender identifications is hierarchicized in the play, as the player is man, woman and idealized female subject (sponsa Christi) mirrored to the male audience united in ritual contemplation of their common identity as virginal sponsae Christi. By staging this marital relationship through an authoritative biblical script counseling preparedness for the consummate, eschatological appearance of the sponsus, so eagerly desired and orienting the entirety of their lives, male monks figure in demonstrable form who their ideal Christian self should be. The play provides a view of monastic gendered subjectivity as a slippage between male-female poles of affective identification: boys will not be boys, but will be girls, the play seems to say, in order to love Christ optimally (30).

NOTES

*This paper has come into existence as a series of footnotes to my dissertation on Cistercian commentaries on the Song of Songs, and as such is relatively provisional. Sponsus is a much-neglected play-text, handling relatively intractable material with an intimacy of style and dramatic immediacy not often found in liturgical drama of the eleventh century. Although no didaskaliai exist detailing the play's performance history, an imaginative reenvisioning of the play is possible from analogies to monastic praxis.

(2) L. Muir, The Biblical Drama of Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1995), p. 17, cites Sponsus as the earliest extant 'extra-liturgical' play, which she defines as a play with 'no specific performance slot within the liturgy. . . . These texts . . . retain their Latin liturgical form and even [may] be designed for a church performance at the end of Mattins or Vespers but they have no fixed and regular place in the annual round of worship.' C. Clifford Flanigan, in 'Medieval Latin music-drama,' The Theatre of Medieval Europe: New Research in Early Drama, ed., Eckehard Simon (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 32-3, cites Helmut de Boor's (1967) distinction between Feier and Spiel as a useful critical yardstick when assessing the liturgical context of these early plays: a Feier is a liturgical celebration in which 'the clergy fulfill sacred figures, they become them'; whereas a Spiel is a dramatic representation outside the liturgy in which the clergy 'represent sacred figures.'

(3) Paris Bibliotheque Nationale lat. 1139, compiled at the Benedictine abbey of St. Martial at Limoges beginning in the late eleventh century, 'consists of two sections, written by two distinct principal hands': 1) folios 32r- 79v= verses, tropes and plays; 2) folios 80r-118r=sequences and Kyries. The first section begins with an Innocents play (fols. 32v - 33r); Sponsus is written on folios 53r-55v and is followed by the earliest extant Prophets play (fols. 55v-58r). Linguistic analysis of the vernacular verses indicates that the copyist is from the northern Limousin region, and that the original dialect is from southwestern France (P. Dronke, Nine Medieval Latin Plays [Cambridge, 1994], pp. 9, 11). D.'A. S. Avalle (ed., Sponsus: Dramma delle Vergini Prudenti e delle Vergini Stolte, R. Monterosso, music ed. [Milan and Naples, 1965]), pp. 9-12, dates the oldest parts of the ms. to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Although an earlier date of c.1050-60 is offered by Dronke (Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages: New Departures in Poetry, 1000-1150 [London, 1986], p.xx n.1), it is not secure, especially since the extant codex was not finished until the early thirteenth century. Some scholars argue that the play was originally entirely written in Latin, and that the Provencal verses were added later as glosses (farcitures) on the Latin original (so Avalle, op. cit., pp. 9, 39 ff.). The resulting bilingual play would then be an attempt to render an exclusively monastic/clerical play accessible to an Occitan-speaking lay/illiterate audience. Dronke, however, contests this on the grounds that the Provencal verses are of 'greater poetic power than the Latin ones, and are never dramatically superfluous or discardable. . . . Rather, this is the integral conception of a single dramatist, and one who could express himself more tellingly in his own native idiom than in the language of high culture he had assimilated' (Nine Medieval Latin Plays, p. xx). The ms. is described in detail in H. Spanke, 'St Martial-Studien: Ein Beitrag zur frčhromanischen Metrik,' repr. in Studien zur lateinischen und romanischen Lyrik des Mittelalters (Hildesheim, 1983) 6-23 (vd. Dronke, ibid., p.11). For the musical culture of St. Martial, see J. Chailley, L'école musicale de Saint Martial de Limoges jusqu' la fin du XIe siécle (Paris, 1960).

(4) The authoritative modern edition of the play is Avalle and Monterosso, op. cit. In this paper, I use the more recent edition of Dronke, op. cit., pp.3-23.

(5) In the gospel account, all ten virgins fall asleep and the foolish forget to bring oil; in the play, both may fall asleep (Hunt) or only the foolish (Dronke), who in any event spill the oil they have brought with them. The play interprets the parable along the lines of self-knowledge as a function of vigilance or inner illumination. Vigilance signifies virginity, good works, charity, faith, preparation for the last day, etc., in patristic sources; e.g., Gregory the Great: Haec est virgo sapiens, quam Dominus vigilantem invenit (Avalle, op. cit., p. 19); Augustine (PL 38, col.580), likewise, urges both subjective and objective vigilance: Si ergo dormituri sumus, quomodo vigilamus? Corde vigila, fide vigila, spe vigila, charitate vigila, operibus vigila. Sleep, on the other hand, signifies the death of the soul through sin and spiritual torpor; e.g., Hrabanus Maurus: [dormire est] in peccatum cadere, ut in psalmo: Dormitavit anima mea prae taedio, id est, in peccatum saepe lapsus sum (Avalle, op. cit., p. 17). Jerome, Commentarium in Evangelium Matthaei 4.25 (PL 26:190ff.), reads the oil as scientia necessary to perform opera bona; Augustine, sermo 93 (PL 38:573ff.), reads the lamps as opera bona and the oil as conscientia formed as internal discretion and good counsel, avoiding the foolish virgins' desire for public praise (hominibus volunt placere); Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Evangelia 1.12 (PL 76:1118ff.), sees the parable as an exhortation to ideal interiority: the oil of recta conscientia is reserved for the wise; the foolish, however, are an emptiness inside (quod in adventu judicis se intus vacuas invenerint). See T. Hunt, '"Le sensus moralis" du Sponsus,' Cahiers de civilization médiévale 26 (1983), 327-34, for a discussion of this exegetical material.

(6) Line 81, in fact, inverts the dramatic situation of Song 5:6 (pessulum ostii aperui dilecto meo/ at ille declinaverat atque transierat: 'I opened the bolt of the door to my love/ but he had turned and gone away'), where the bride opens the door and her sponsus has left. Here, the bride knocks, but the sponsus will not open the door, although the bride does not leave, either (Dronke, op. cit., p. 6). In keeping with its eschatological theme, the sponsus of the play is both Judge at the Apocalypse and the divine Sponsus of the Song of Songs. More importantly, this bridegroom is neither accompanied by a bride, nor is one waiting for him in the bridal chamber (as she is in the parable). In Sponsus, each of the ten virgins is Christ's bride, whom he comes to greet and lead into the aula luminis of erotic/spiritual bliss (lines 83-4). (cf. Dronke, op. cit., p. xxi); i.e., each monk is to see himself here as sponsa Christi.

(7) The opening ten-line song of Ecclesia would have been chanted antiphonally by the choir, representing the body of the Church as itself feminine. T. Hunt, op. cit., p. 332, observes that the choir would sing the two Provencal refrains of the angel Gabriel and the Fatue (foolish virgins) as well.

(8) Bernard makes use of the parable of wise/foolish virgins in numerous sermons on the Song: 2.5-7 (Matt. 25:5); 15.3 (Matt. 25:8); 18.3 (Matt. 25:9); 23.1 (Matt. 25:10-11); 51.3 (Matt. 25:5); 74.10-11 (Matt. 25:2, 12); and 75.3 (Matt. 25:10).

(9) The typical Western misogynistic position inscribes women as 'materiality' which cannot share in the 'spiritual' or 'intellectual' pursuits of men; in the desert tradition, Cassian equates corrupt, sinful 'flesh' with the feminine while the 'body' capable of redemption and resurrection is aligned with the masculine. Butler, op. cit., pp. 31-2, theoretically develops the etymological link between materiality and the feminine; all materia is founded upon both mater and matrix, as origin, principle of nourishment, and ground of being.

(10) Misogyny and the fear of feminine sexuality is found specifically, for our purposes in this paper, in monastic injunctions against 'effeminate' liturgical performance practice. Aelred of Rievaulx, e.g., in Speculum caritatis (PL 195, col. 571-2), ch. 23, argues against excessive theatrics, which in his opinion threaten to sunder the bond between human and divine which the liturgy effects. He cites lascivious gestures and falsetto voices as imitations of women and denigrations of masculinity, and observes that this 'travesty of religion' is a cause of scandal for the vulgus, giving the impression of a secular entertainment (aliquando virili vigore deposito, in femineae vocis gracilitates acuitur. . . . Interim histrionicis quibusdam gestibus totum corpus agitatur, torquentur labia, rotant, ludunt humeri. . . . et haec ridiculosa dissolutio vocatur religio . . . lascivas cantantium gesticulationes, meretricias vocum alternationes et infractiones non sine cachinno risuque [vulgus] intuetur, ut eos non ad oratorium, sed ad theatrum, nec ad orandum, sed ad spectandum aestimes convenisse). Vd. S. Paterno, The Liturgical Context of Early European Drama, Scripta humanistica 56 (Washington, D.C., 1989), p. 138. The Cistercian General Chapter statutes from 1134, no. 73, also inveigh against the use of effeminate falsetto voices in the liturgy.

(11) And, as Rainer Warning has observed ('On the Alterity of Medieval Religious Drama,' New Literary History 10.2 [Winter, 1979], 265-92), 'we have only texts where institutions were at issue . . . we know that these texts only represent relics of institutionalized performances' (pp. 265-6). As a result, the plays must be recontextualized as ritual acts: 'The 'as if' of these plays does not constitute what we call fiction, but remains a form of ritual. In such cult play the internal and external situations coincide. Even when acted in front of a congregation, it is always acted as if to represent the congregation, which in turn acts the role of mankind [sic]. Thus, religious drama is not autonomous after the fashion of a self-contained fiction performed before spectators, but is rather the institutionally autonomous performance of a ritual' (p. 267). Religious drama is not synonymous with liturgical ritual, however; its own 'institutional autonomy' separates it from the 'institutional church cult which gave rise to it . . . For if these plays remained a form of ritual, this also means that the ritual was performed as play so as to respond to needs which clearly were no longer satisfied through the customary channels of religious dispensation' (p. 267). Catherine Bell, likewise (Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice [New York and Oxford, 1992]), argues against viewing religious drama as dependent on exterior ritual codes, since such dependence would '[devalue the dramatic] action itself, making it a second-stage representation of prior values' (p. 45).

(12) The reformist pope Gregory IX in the eleventh century, in fact, clearly defines the role of liturgical drama as ad devotionem excitandem. Vd. Collins, 'Liturgical Drama,' The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, A. Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds. (Princeton, 1993), p.703.

(13) Before the phenomenon of monastic commentary on the Song reached its pinnacle, male monastics were regularly gendered as virile warriors or athletes of Christ.

(14) P. Cox Miller, 'Desert Asceticism and 'The Body from Nowhere',' Journal of Early Christian Studies 2.2 (1994), pp. 137-8, 143.

(15) Cox Miller, ibid., p. 144.

(16) Trexler, op. cit., p. 111, observes in this sense that 'in a cultural performance, the environment is transformed through the verbal gesture of an official actor,' giving as an example a priest's illocutionary words at the eucharistic consecration, Hoc est corpus meum, which can be said to 'create' the Body of Christ from the altar bread.

(17) Cox Miller, op. cit., who uses Freud's concept of scopophilia (voyeurism) to theorize her ideas.

(18) P. Cox Miller, 'The Blazing Body: Ascetic Desire in Jerome's Letter to Eustochium,' Journal of Early Christian Studies 1.1 (1993), p. 21.

(19) Cox Miller, ibid., p. 26.

(20) Dronke, Nine Medieval Latin Plays, p. 7, who suggests that staging of this scene could vividly represent the foolish virgins' descent into hellfire by placing a burning brazier at the foot of stairs leading into the crypt from the sanctuary (the aula of the play, line 84).

(21) Dronke, ibid.

(22) S. Kay, Subjectivity in Troubadour Poetry (Cambridge, 1990), ch. 3, 'Gender and Status.'

(23) Kay, ibid., p. 86. This mixing is most apparent, Kay says, 'in the equivalence of the denotations domna and midons ['my lord'], and in the use of masculine senhals [personal mark/sign/epithet] and male feudal images alongside evocations of female sexual attributes' (ibid.). On medieval grammarians, see M. Irvine, The Making of Textual Culture: 'Grammatica' and Literary Theory, 350-1100 (Cambridge, 1994).

(24) Kay, ibid.

(25) Kay, ibid., pp. 86-93.

(26) Kay, ibid., pp.87-8. The singular domna is used only if another overt word for 'woman' is found in the poem along with it; e.g., Bernart de Ventadorn, 31.33-4: D'aisso.s fa be femna parer/ ma domna, per qu'e.lh o retrai ('In this respect my lady shows how truly she is a woman, and so it is that I accuse her').

(27) Since there are no rubrics in the ms. between lines 47-66, the problem of definite line assignment has puzzled scholars. The first-person plural, avem ('we have'), in the refrain, 'Dolentas . . .,' is emended by some editors to avet ('you have'), allowing the refrain to become the wise virgins' reprimand of the foolish: 'you have slept too long,' and allows the speaking voice of the refrain to easily agree with that of its preceding lines, if the Prudentes should be speaking (this problem arises at lines 47, 52, 57, 62, 66). This is Zumthor's opinion, cited in Hunt, op. cit., p. 330 n.17. Hunt keeps avem (assigning the same refrain to both groups for exegetical reasons), as does Dronke, who uniformly assigns the refrain to the foolish virgins (Nine Medieval Latin Plays, p. xxi, n.1). According to Hunt, the play renders the last line of the parable, Vigilate itaque, quia nescitis diem neque horam (Matt. 25:13), as the refrain of the first half of the play, 'Gaire no'i dormet,' and the refrain 'Dolentas . . .' is an acknowledgement by both groups in the second half of the play that they haven't been vigilant enough.

(28) Transposing the number of the subject of Bernart de Ventadorn's poem 31 (cited in n. 38 above) against an irrational femna: car no vol so c'om deu voler,/ e so c'om li deveda, fai ('for she fails to want what she ought to want, and she does what she is forbidden to do') (Kay, op. cit., p.88).

(29) Kay, op. cit., p. 91.

(30) Likewise, women ascetics are encouraged to become masculine, eschewing their 'weak' femininity in favor of a Christlike virility. See, e.g., Osbert of Clare's letter to the nun Ida exhorting her to become a 'splendid and radiant virgo, or rather a virile and incorrupt virago, through the virility of [her] husband Christ' (talem te fieri cupio, splendida et clara virgo, immo de viro Christo virilis et incorrupta virago; cited in Newman, op. cit., p.120 and n.37). At the same time, women ascetics were consistently imaged in terms of feminine gender roles, as brides of Christ, mothers and sisters instead of asexual angels, in treatises on spiritual formation.

James Whitta
Brown University
E-mail: James_Whitta@postoffice.brown.edu

(James Whitta is finishing his dissertation in the Comparative Literature department at Brown University)

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