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Trans Climates of the European Middle Ages, 500-1300

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Charmaille, François E 


This article gathers evidence of a distinct strand of writing in Western Europe from the sixth century onwards which concerns itself with the relation between the seasons and sexual difference in humans, particularly in discussions of Tiresias. From this tradition emerges what I call trans climatology, a conceptualisation of seasons as gendered, of the climatically ordered procession of the seasons as transgender change, and of this change having a direct effect on the bodies of people (or indeed, of people's bodies having a direct effect on the climate). This article’s aims are therefore threefold. Firstly, it uncovers a tradition of mythographical exegesis, the climatological interpretation of Tiresias, and shows that mythographies across the 500-1300 period engaged in a debate around the significance of Tiresias’s transitions. Secondly, this article shows how two major literary works of the late Middle Ages, Alan of Lille’s De planctu Naturae (c. 1160), and Jean de Meun’s continuation of the Roman de la Rose (c. 1268-1274), responded to this intellectual tradition. It is with these two texts that a fully-fledged trans climatology becomes actual discourse rather than the potential implication it was in previous mythographical works. Thirdly, this article hopes to convince scholars both inside and outside the medieval field of trans climatology’s import as an analytical concept. It therefore intervenes not only in medieval ecological studies, but also in the even younger field of medieval trans studies, and their modern counterparts.



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Speculum: a journal of Medieval studies

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University of Chicago Press

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