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The Middle Ages in the Modern WorldTwenty-first century perspectives$
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Bettina Bildhauer and Chris Jones

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266144

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.001.0001

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Black Skin, Green Masks: Medieval Foliate Heads, Racial Trauma, and Queer World-Making

Black Skin, Green Masks: Medieval Foliate Heads, Racial Trauma, and Queer World-Making

Chapter:
(p.276) 14 Black Skin, Green Masks: Medieval Foliate Heads, Racial Trauma, and Queer World-Making
Source:
The Middle Ages in the Modern World
Author(s):

Carolyn Dinshaw

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.003.0015

The medieval foliate head has proven to be a powerful icon in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US and UK, not only of human interdependence with non-human nature but also of sexual and racial boundary crossings among humans. This decorative motif known popularly as the Green Man – a human head made of leaves, or with vegetation sprouting from it – was almost ubiquitous in English and Western European church sculpture from the late eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. These aesthetically intricate, affectively intense images represent bodies that are strange mixtures, weird amalgams: they picture intimate trans-species relations. Drawing on recent theories of queer inhumanism, this chapter analyses uptakes of foliate head imagery in festivals (including Burning Man), sexual subcultures (the Radical Faeries), and literature (Randolph Stow’s Girl Green as Elderflower), focusing particularly on traumatic postcolonial contexts out of which new queer worlds are imagined.

Keywords:   foliate head, Green Man, queer inhumanism, sexual subcultures, Burning Man, Radical Faeries, Randolph Stow

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