Skip to main content

Before the Closet

Same-Sex Love from "Beowulf" to "Angels in America"

Allen J. Frantzen challenges the long accepted view that the early Middle Ages tolerated and even fostered same-sex relations and that intolerance of homosexuality developed only late in the medieval period. Frantzen shows that in early medieval Europe, the Church did not tolerate same-sex acts, in fact it was an age before people recognized the existence—or the possibility—of the "closet."

With its ambitious scope and elegant style, Before the Closet sets same-sex relations in Anglo-Saxon sources in relation to the sexual themes of contemporary opera, dance, and theatre. Frantzen offers a comprehensive analysis of sources from the seventh to the twelfth century and traces Anglo-Saxon same-sex behavior through the age of Chaucer and into the Renaissance.

"Frantzen’s marvelous book . . . opens up a world most readers will never have even known was there. It’s a difficult topic, but Frantzen’s comprehensive, readable and even wryly funny treatment makes this an unexpected pleasure."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

380 pages | 12 halftones, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Gender and Sexuality

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Medieval Studies

Table of Contents

Introduction: Straightforward
Pt. 1: Trouser Roles and Transvestites
1: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
2: Kiss and Tell: Anglo-Saxon Tales of Manly Men and Women
Pt. 2: The Anglo-Saxons
3: Surveying Same-Sex Relations in the Early Middle Ages
4: The Sociology of Sex in Anglo-Saxon Laws and Penitentials
5: The Shadow of Sodom: Same-Sex Relations in Pastoral Prose and Poetry
Pt. 3: From Angles to Angels
6: Sex and the Anglo-Saxons from the Norman Conquest to the Renaissance
7: Alla, Angli, and Angels in America
Afterword: Me and My Shadows

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press