Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Liberal Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Traci Ardren

Second Committee Member

Pamela Geller

Third Committee Member

Eugene Clasby


In the Middle Ages, masculinity could best be defined by the ability of a male to impregnate women, protect dependents and serve as a provider for one's family. With the Gregorian Reform of the eleventh century came a campaign against clerical marriage, which thereby effectively disallowed men of faith to perform the traditional masculine gender roles. The clergy, while biologically male, were seemingly emasculated by their vows of chastity and expected to perform tasks that in many cases were considered to be feminine. For these reasons, some medievalists have proposed that the unique role that these men performed should be considered a 'third gender' as it deviates from the normalized gender roles. In order to confirm or contradict this new interpretation, I will properly contextualize the data by examining textual, archaeological and skeletal evidence. First, I will briefly discuss the documented gender roles of the time period by relying primarily on historical texts. Then, also using primary textual sources, I will examine the lives of the clergy and attempt to assess public opinion concerning these figures. Finally, I will rely on skeletal and contextual data from medieval monastic cemeteries in England to further the assessment. Burial positioning and associated artifacts, as well as pathology are some of the data that inform my inferences. Although the study of gender and other social identities has been increasingly popular within the last decade, celibate monks have been largely overlooked. Some scholars believe them to be a 'genderless' population. I respectfully disagree. Many of the young men who would eventually join the Order were raised in traditional homes with traditional gender roles. When many of their friends were getting married, these males were joining the Church. It seems likely that these men underwent identity issues as they were suddenly expected to ignore the traditional gender roles that were ascribed to them from an early age. Thus, I believe that this population is worthy of further examination and by looking at multiple types of data, a more complete picture of this unique group can be formed.


bioarchaeology; masculinity; third gender; contextualization; medieval england