AbstractsGeography &GIS


The last two decades have witnessed a proliferation of medieval gender studies, yet few scholars have addressed the material culture of masculine identity in a late medieval context. This thesis is a response to this scholarly lacuna, focusing on the active role of anthropomorphic pottery in constructing masculinity in 13th- to 15th- century England. Whilst anthropomorphic vessels have been published in a variety of catalogues and reports, few systematic attempts have been made to assess the range and distribution of these vessels across a wide geographical area. To this end, an intensive review of museum collections, grey literature and published material was conducted across five study areas, centred on Norwich, Lincoln, Coventry, Oxford and Bristol, and their respective regions. It was found that, whilst exhibiting local variability, the anthropomorphic pottery from each study area adhered to the same basic set of themes and motifs. These are divided into two main categories: representations of elite masculinity, in which the knight-on-horseback plays a central role; and more overt representations of virility, expressed through the depiction of bearded men and phallic decoration. Whilst it was found that anthropomorphic vessels were not restricted to any particular site-type or social demographic, their distribution demonstrates a strong association with the commercial environs of medieval towns and ports. It is argued that these vessels, collectively, formed part of a cultural package that emerged in England during the 13th century, at a time when new forms of urban masculinity were competing with traditional understandings of what it meant to be a man in medieval society. This was, moreover, a package that placed women at the margins of the social aspects of drinking, reflected in the overwhelming preoccupation with masculine imagery on serving and drinking vessels, to the virtual exclusion of female attributes.