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  • Writer's pictureLogan Quigley

Speculum Spotlight: Trans Climates of the European Middle Ages (Charmaille, Jansen, & Quigley)

Updated: Feb 24

This article, “Trans Climates of the European Middle Ages, 500 to 1300,” 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, and particularly in discussions of Tiresias. From this tradition emerges what this article calls trans climatology, a conceptualization of seasons as gendered, of the climatically ordered possession 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 the tradition of mythographical exegesis, or the climatological interpretation of the myth of Tiresias, and it shows that mythography across the 500-1300 period engaged in a debate around the significance of Tiresias’ transitions. Secondly, this article shows how two major literary works of the late Middle Ages, Alan of Lille’s De planctu naturae and Jean de Meun’s continuation of the Roman de la Rose, responded to this intellectual tradition. It's 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.

Logan Quigley is the first installment in a special partnership with Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies intending to feature one writer from each new issue of the journal.

François·e Charmaille is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of English at Christ's College, University of Cambridge. Their articles have appeared in Exemplaria and Diacritics. Their doctoral research focuses on the relation between gender and grammar in Western European writing of the later Middle Ages.

Katherine L. Jansen is a historian at the Catholic University of America whose work specializes in the history of medieval Italy, religious culture, and women and gender. Her most recent book is Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). She currently serves as the Editor of Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies.

Logan Quigleycompleted his PhD at the University of Notre Dame in 2022 and serves as a series producer and host for The Multicultural Middle Ages podcast. His academic research explores late medieval understandings and representations of space and time, especially through pilgrimage and travel literature.

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