Carolyn Dinshaw

Sodomite, Gay, Queer, Trans: A 14th-Century Document and It's Afterlives

Carolyn Dinshaw
05/02 2020
12:15-13:15, DIAS Conference Room, 1. floor, SDU, Campus Odense

“Sodomite, Gay, Queer, Trans: A 14th-Century Document and It’s Afterlives”

By Carolyn Dinshaw, Dean for the Humanities, also Julius Silver, Roslyn S. Silver, and Enid Silver Winslow Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and English at New York University.


In 1394 in London a person named John Rykener but calling themself Eleanor was arrested in the act of having paid sex with a man from out of town. In a deposition Rykener gave a detailed account of their life as sex worker. Scholars as well as artists (and some scholar-artists) have taken up, researched, imagined, written, danced, and performed with puppets the life of Rykener based on this document. In this talk Dinshaw goes back to the original record and forward to modern and contemporary interpretations of it in order to discern who Rykener was then, and how they are understood – and indeed animated – now.

About Carolyn Dinshaw
Dean Dinshaw is a medievalist whose research not only focuses on the late Middle Ages in England and beyond, but also explores the relationship of past to present. Her award-winning book, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (U of Wisconsin P, 1989), was the first full-length feminist study of Chaucer.

She followed this with two books that develop analyses of our desires for past times: Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (Duke UP, 1999) and How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (Duke UP, 2012). With David Wallace, she edited The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women’s Writing (Cambridge UP, 2003). And with David M. Halperin she founded and edited (1993-2005) the flagship journal of LGBT Studies, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Duke UP).

Before moving to NYU, Dean Dinshaw taught for many years at the University of California at Berkeley, where she was instrumental in the early development of LGBT Studies. At NYU, she founded and directed the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (1999-2005) and chaired the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (2012-15). In the classroom, she regularly teaches materials past and present, in courses ranging from Medieval Misogyny to Queer New York City.

Dean Dinshaw earned her A.B. from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. from Princeton University.