Painful pleasures

Sadomasochism in medieval cultures

Edited by Christopher Vaccaro

Painful pleasures


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5333-3
  • Pages: 400
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £90.00
  • Published Date: July 2022
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Medieval history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, Literature, Medieval Literature, Sex, sexuality, relationships & society: general, European history: medieval period, middle ages, Literary studies: ancient & classical, HISTORY / Medieval, LITERARY CRITICISM / Gothic & Romance, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Society & social sciences / Sociology: sexual relations
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


This timely volume ventures into the subject of sadomasochism in varied aspects of medieval life. Saint's Lives and mystical treatises provide evidence of failed sadism and empowering masochism. Literary culture in the form of epics and courtly tales preserve stories of eroticised power. These exciting chapters join together to form a picture of medieval culture that is kinky in its practice and deeply psychological at its core.


Introduction: the jouissance of medieval kink - Christopher Vaccaro

Part I: Spiritual and penitential (con)texts
1 Humiliation as penance in some early penitentials - Erin Abraham
2 Land of saints and sadists: the S&M scene(s) in medieval Ireland - Phillip A. Bernhardt-House
3 Failed sadism and masochistic martyrdom in Christine de Pizan's Livre de la Cité des Dames - Tina-Marie Ranalli
4 The monastic pleasures of frustrated knowledge - Karmen MacKendrick
5 The pains of being pure at heart: sadomasochism in Richard of St. Victor's On the four degrees of violent love - Christopher Michael Roman
6 Negotiating power and pleasure in the Book of Margery Kempe - Nicole Slipp

Part II: Courtly and secular (con)texts
7 I am not having what she's having: female sexual (un)pleasure medieval and modern - Juliana Dresvina
8 Queer consolation: BDSM in Chaucer's The Clerk's tale, sadistic epistemology and the ends of suffering - Masha Raskolnikov
9 Ideological sadism or cultural enhancement: thirteenth-century Mongols in Kievan Rus and Baghdad - Vicky Panossian
10 Fetishizing the past: Troilus and Criseyde, sadomasochism, and the historophilia of modern BDSM - Kersti Francis
11 'My warlike grip broke his beating heart': masochism and the deadly embrace in Beowulf ll. 2501-2508a - Christopher Vaccaro
12 Death drive and the maiden: the queerness of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim - Philip Liston-Kraft


Christopher Vaccaro is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Vermont

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