In vestibus virilibus: female transvestitism is late medieval English culture
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 22:38 authored by Lexie Eatock
This thesis examines the sexual connotations of female to male cross-dressing in late medieval English culture, and how this perceived sexuality was interpreted within legal system and broader culture. It analyses the representation of the cross-dressing saints of antiquity in literary culture, considering how this may have popularised the concept of transvestitism, as well as revealing the unintended sexuality associated with the acts of these women. This thesis then examines five prosecuted cases of female to male cross-dressing in English courts between 1429 and 1520, analysing the basis of these prosecutions and building a comparison between the legal and literary cultures of the period. Finally, the thesis considers the best-known medieval cross-dresser, Joan of Arc, prosecuted for a variety of crimes by an ecclesiastical court in France under the control of the English military. Scholars have argued that this act of cross-dressing is about religious practice or aiming to improve their social status. I will argue instead that by taking dressing and acting as men, these women instead evoked sexual connotations.