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Faculty of Music


Dr Lisa Colton (University of Huddersfield)

Queer Sensibilities in Medieval Musical Culture


What might queerness mean when considering medieval culture? Certainly the term itself is a much later one, but the concept of sex, the body and sexuality as fluid and in play pervades much medieval discourse, from the theological to the fictional. This chapter seeks to examine some of the ways in which music, sound and musical bodies can be understood as queer during the Middle Ages, focusing on the way in which musicians and their instruments are depicted. Often located in the margins of devotional manuscripts, images of music-making range from the conventional to the grotesque and obscene, sometimes involving hybrid men/instruments in which the player and the played become confused. Such images invite speculation as to how people living during the later Middle Ages understood their musical selves, and are suggestive of a cultural understanding of the body which was far from accepting of standard binaries of male/female, lay/religious, human/animal, or of normative/queer sexual behaviours, desires and identities.


Dr Lisa Colton is Subject Leader for Music at the University of Huddersfield, where she is also director of the Centre for the Study of Music, Gender and Identity. Her research interests span medieval music, twentieth-century British composers, and popular music. She has published journal articles including Music and Letters, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Plainsong and Medieval Music, Early Music and Contemporary Music Review. Dr Colton is currently working on a monograph, Angel Song: Medieval English Music in History, and is co-editing a collection entitled Gender, Musical Creativity, and Age; both are forthcoming with Ashgate.

Wednesday, 4 December, 2013 - 17:00 to 18:00
Event location: 
5.00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music