Love, Sex & Marriage in the Middle Ages : A Sourcebook book cover
2nd Edition

Love, Sex & Marriage in the Middle Ages
A Sourcebook

Edited By

Conor McCarthy

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after April 21, 2022
ISBN 9780367706555
April 21, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
336 Pages

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Book Description

This updated edition collects an extensive range of evidence for how people in the European Middle Ages thought about the emotional state of love, the physical act of sex and the social institution of marriage.

Included are extracts from literary and theological works, medical and legal writings, conduct books, chronicles and letters. These texts discuss married couples who are not having sex, and unmarried ones who are. We encounter marriages for creating alliances, marriages for love and promises of marriage made in the hope of obtaining sex. Learned texts discuss the etymology of sexual terms and the medical causes of difficulties in conceiving. There are accounts of clandestine marriages, sexual violence, the madness of love-melancholy, and much more. By drawing on diverse voices and presenting less accessible material, this sourcebook provides a nuanced view of how medieval people thought about these subjects and questions the similarities and differences between their perspectives and our own.

With an expanded range of texts, wider geographical scope, suggestions for further reading and updated explanatory material to reflect changes in scholarship in over two decades, this edition is an invaluable resource for students interested in sexuality, gender, and relationships in the Middle Ages.

Table of Contents

Introduction   Part 1: Ecclesiastical Sources  1. Sex, Marriage and the Church in Early Medieval England  2. Theology and Canon Law  3. Canon Law and Actual Practice  4. Beyond Medieval Christendom  Part 2: Legal Sources  5. Early Medieval English Law  6. Early Medieval Germanic and Celtic Laws  7. Anglo-Norman/English Law  8. Cases from the Secular Courts  Part 3: Saints’ Lives, Letters, Chronicles, Conduct Books  9. Saints' Lives and Female Religious Writings  10. Letters  11. Chronicles  12. Conduct Books  Part 4: Literary Sources  13. Old English Literature  14. Middle English Literature  15. Welsh Literature  16. Irish Literature  17. Icelandic Literature  18. Latin Literature  19. Arabic Literature  20. French Literature  21. German Literature  22. Italian Literature  Part 5: Medical Writings  23. Medical Writings on Love  24. Medical Writings on Sex


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Conor McCarthy is Director of Philanthropy at the National Library of Australia. He holds a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin. His publications include Marriage in Medieval England: Law, Literature and Practice (2004), Seamus Heaney and Medieval Poetry (2008), and Outlaws and Spies: Legal Exclusion in Law and Literature (2020).