Yes, it’s expensive, but you know you’re in for some fun as soon as you look at the cover illustration on this collection of essays arising out of an international seminar series hosted by the University of York in 2001. A detail from a manuscript in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France shows two rather anxious-looking nuns picking fruit from a surprisingly well-endowed bush. Other illustrations in this luscious volume include a gold cap badge consisting of a certain part of the female anatomy, mounted on horseback and wielding a bow, entitled ‘Pussy Goes A Hunting.’ My girlfriends and I have been considering reproducing it on a tee-shirt and going to Dublin or Prague for a lost weekend!
There is, of course a serious side to all this. A society’s concept of obscenity and its response to it is one of its strongest defining characteristics. The essays in this collection therefore, ranging as they do over subjects as various as obscenity in church art, voyeurism, homosexuality and the devil and defecation, offer a wonderful peepshow into the mediaeval mind. If you really want to know what made mediaeval men and women laugh, or what thirteenth century teenagers would die rather than share with their parents, this book is a great place to begin.