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Jerome in a Dress

Jerome in a Dress

(p.1) Introduction: Jerome in a Dress
Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages
Robert Mills
University of Chicago Press

The Introduction begins by analyzing a miniature in the Belles Heures of Jean de Berry, which relates the legend of how Saint Jerome is subjected to a practical joke in which he mistakenly cross-dresses as a woman. This striking image is used as a touchstone for evaluating the relationship between gender variance and sexual dissidence in medieval and modern cultures, and the role played by visibility in shaping that relationship. When is a mode of gendered presentation, such as cross-dressing, a code for something libidinal, and when is it not? Does the visible undoing of Jerome’s “gender” have anything to say about his “sexuality”? Does it resonate with the sexual or gender identities of the book’s readers or patron? The discussion of the Belles Heures miniature builds to an overview of the book’s central themes: visibility, politics, and sodomy; the logic of sequence and motifs of secondariness; the significance of a gender-comparative analysis; questions of terminology; and the role played by translation in sodomy’s entry into the field of vision.

Keywords:   Saint Jerome, Jean, Duke of Berry, cross-dressing, gender and sexuality, visibility

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