Wade, Erik (2020):
"The Birds and the Bedes: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Bede’s In Cantica Canticorum." postmedieval 11.4: 425-433.
Journal Article
Abstract

Abstract This article argues that Bede – like modern intersectional analysis – believed that identity categories cannot be disentangled or understood in isolation. In Bede’s commentary on the Song of Songs, skin color, gender, and religious identity intermix with metaphors of sexuality. These categories coalesce in a monumental lesson on how to read. Bede claims that reading the Song literally – perceiving Black skin, eroticism, gender confusion – means reading like a Jew and prevents readers from seeing the feminine, metaphorical level below the masculine, carnal level. This article suggests that intersectional analysis is akin to much medieval thought rather than being an anachronistic imposition on a historical text. Intersectional analysis can lay bare how medieval theologians saw identity categories as interwoven and interdependent, even while the theologians themselves entrenched hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, and religious difference. For Bede, Christian interpretation is a continual process of moving from a literal outside (Black, masculine, carnal, sexual) to a metaphorical inside (beautiful, feminine, allegorical, chaste, reproductive). Once inside, however, we – like the bird passing through the hall – must return once again to the outside in an endless movement between layers that echoes theological processes of rumination and blurs the divide between the contemplative and the active life.