Continuing to blog, in my slow way, the project that in time became my book Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain. You'll see from this earlier iteration that the materials are the same (the archive is twelfth century Latin historiography) but the focus rather different, on the materiality of blood and its tendency to flow into impure admixtures, confounding racial categories built upon an imagined purity. This chapter is about being between belongings -- and attempts a sympathetic reading of a writer not known for his own empathy.
Our posts so far:
Stories of Blood 1: Real and Recent Blood
Stories of Blood 2: The Blood of Race
Stories of Blood 3: Histories of Blood
PDF of Bibliography
|Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.27v|
A Vision of Blood, c. 1197
The same dream again. A dagger scrapes the vellum, etching a Latin rubric. Gerald knows the white sheepskin is not stained with ink. It is alive. It bleeds. He can feel the force of every word in his own flesh. This flow that is the ink spells out the same lines, over and over: SEMIBOVEMQUE VIRUM SEMIVIRUMQUE BOVEM. Lines from Ovid, the Roman poet of transformation. Lines that have haunted Gerald since he learned them as a boy, when reading the Art of Love seemed a deliciously wicked thing for a future priest to do.
SEMIBOVEMQUE VIRUM SEMIVIRUMQUE BOVEM. A man that was half a bull and a bull that was half a man. Ovid's resonant description of the Minotaur. Gerald thinks back to ancient Crete, when love-stricken Pasiphae burned for a handsome white bull. Daedalus, destined to lose his beloved Icarus to sun-melted wings, devised a copulation machine that allowed the queen and her animal lover to consummate their ardor. What unnatural mixing had Daedalus engineered, what mingling of forbidden categories? Gerald imagined that he was watching the birth of the monster in all its taurine glory. As the bullish snout inhaled its first Aegean air, as the pup erupted into very human sobs, Gerald looked deep into huge, round eyes and divined his future: abandoned by both bulls and men, trapped in a labyrinth that offered no escape. Gerald gazed at this mixed up thing lost in its winding maze. Gerald gazed at this monster that could find no people to love him, no future, no home, and he knew that he saw himself.[i]
The Confidence of Conquerors
"Attempting to rationalise and homogenise Gerald [of Wales]'s wildly fluctuating allegiances and sympathies," observes Julia C. Crick, "would prove a fruitless enterprise."[ii] That has not, of course, stopped scholars from trying. Most critics see a movement in his life from early identifications with the English court to a later pro-Welsh stance as he lobbied for an archbishopric at St. David's, culminating in the bitter rejection of both and an embrace of the monarchy of France.[iii] In the pages that follow, however, I will emphasize a constant within these fluctuations: Gerald's lifelong struggle to articulate the contours of a difficult, compound identity. Celibate ecclesiast, multilingual ethnographer, tireless writer and reviser of unprecedented texts, grandson of Welsh royalty, international intellectual, descendant of conquering Normans, court chaplain, instrument in the conquest of Ireland, eccentric and irascible multiplier of marvels, Giraldus Cambrensis often did not know exactly who he was.
When pressed, the identity that this man conventionally known as Gerald of Wales would most frequently declare was what we would today call "Cambro-Norman" or "Marcher." These terms designate a mixed race inhabitant of the Welsh March (Marchia Wallie), the borderland between the portions of Wales held by Norman immigrants from England and the northeast regions designated as Pura Wallia, "pure Wales," the Welsh lands that had never been subjugated by the Normans or which had returned to native rule after the revolts following the death of King Henry I.[iv] The ambitious brothers of those Norman adventurers who helped annex the English throne to a transmarinal empire saw in Wales an opportunity for their own self-enrichment. Accomplished conquerors, the Normans had honed their skills at territorial acquisition from England to Sicily. So rapid was their advance into Wales and so thorough was their reordering of indigenous social and political life that the Welsh immediately realized their world was coming to an end. The Brut y Tywysogyon, a native record of reaction to these incursions, speaks in an entry for the close of the eleventh century of "the unbearable tyranny, injustice, oppression and violence of the French," a reordering of their cosmos that yielded no sign of impermanence.[v]
In their numerous campaigns in Wales the Normans employed a range of strategies: treaty and selective alliance to take advantage of the animosity between competing indigenous factions; the frenzied building of castles, transforming a landscape traversed by somewhat nomadic groups into permanent settlements clustered around massive fortifications; importation into conquered areas of Flemish and English colonists, fracturing native culture and beginning a process of forced Anglicization; the slaying of livestock, destruction of buildings, seizure of property and land.[vi] At the hands of these intruders the Welsh people suffered torture, dismemberment, murder, imprisonment, and being sold into slavery. The Normans in Wales also employed a favorite ancestral device of conquest, strategic intermarriage to penetrate and master indigenous populations. Used so successfully by their Viking ancestors, Scandinavian warriors who settled among the northern Franks to form Normandy, then deployed again to strengthen the occupation of England, matrimonial infiltration enabled ambitious Normans to secure land and wealth simply by taking local brides. Their kinsmen invading Wales did the same, marrying into powerful princely families in the hope of fortifying their dominion. In Normandy this process had created a partially assimilated French-speaking elite, and in England intermarriage was transforming the conquering Normanni into Anglici, leading Hugh M. Thomas to declare that the Normans seem never to have had a desire to maintain some kind of ethnic purity, perhaps because Dudo of St Quentin had given them an origin myth that stressed their primal racial heterogeneity. Yet whereas in England and Normandy the Norman conquerors had overwhelmed and then intermingled with a newly subject people, spreading themselves rather thinly throughout their dominions, in Wales the fierce resistance to conquest engendered a lastingly bifurcated geography. Swathes of the lowland areas were seized and the native population often expelled. Boroughs were created from which the Welsh were excluded. Wales became an enduringly segregated geography in a way that England never did.[vii] The Norman settlers who became the Marchers staunchly resisted acculturation, insisting on their separateness from the Welsh. No doubt they felt they had little choice. As John Gillingham and R. R. Davies have demonstrated, eleventh and twelfth century England was committed to the systematic and wholesale depiction of the Irish, Welsh and Scots as bloodthirsty, uncivilized, bestial races. Such dehumanizing representation is a hoary tool of colonialism, with venerable precedent in the Bible. By representing a native population as monstrous, their dispossession becomes unproblematic. The depiction of the Welsh as monsters, moreover, took on a renewed vitality during the reign of Stephen, as many of the lands that had been under secure English control saw a resurgence of native resistance and some spectacular reclamations of territory. "The map of power," R. R. Davies has observed, "seemed to be in the process of being redrawn radically."[viii] The propaganda machine kicked into high gear as astonished English writers realized that their dominance was not only being disputed for the first time in generations, but that defiance was proving embarrassingly effective. That the monsterization of the Welsh and the Scots became increasing hysterical in tone at the very time that they were proving to be formidable challenges to the supposedly self-evident superiority of England suggests that military and political failure was being answered by an attempt at representational control.
The French-speaking aristocracy of twelfth-century Britain traced its ancestry to the invaders of England, rendering Norman descent glorious -- at least as far as those currently in power were concerned. The problem for the Marchers, however, was that the blood of an increasingly denigrated aboriginal race undeniably coursed through their veins. Unlike the Franks or the native English, who had taken a mere span of years to subjugate, the Welsh would be caught in a vicious process of conquest for two long centuries. To make matters worse, this race (the Normans and the English always thought of the Welsh as constituting a single people, even though the Welsh did not necessarily think of themselves in such terms) never had the decency or the sense to stop resisting their defeat.[ix] In the light of the unrelenting demonization of the Welsh by their English compeers, the Marchers saw little reason to celebrate their mixed racial heritage. To be tied in one's very body to a people who were proving a useful national enemy was a matter for alarm, even panic.
Despite the fact that racial categories in the Middle Ages tended to be exclusive, contemporary scholars are fond of using hyphenated terms for compound identities. Thus England has its Anglo-Normans, the Welsh March its Cambro-Normans. Yet as Hugh M. Thomas has perceptively pointed out, however handy this shorthand might be for us, when it came to racial identity medieval people did not ordinarily think in terms of transitional or hybrid phases. Instead people tended to have multiple identities available to them: Norman in one context, English in another. "Ultimately," writes Thomas, "the results would be the same: as fewer people chose the Norman option, and more came to see Englishness as their sole or at least primary identity, there would be an overall shift to English identity" (The English and the Normans 71). When one was powerful enough to choose his or her effective identity, such multiplicity was unlikely to cause much concern. "Norman" becomes "English" over time because eventually what had been a clearly subaltern race had risen in prestige.
The world is seldom so cut and dried, of course. Just as William of Malmesbury could in his Deeds of the Kings of the English confidently boast of holding simultaneously an identity that was equal parts Norman and English -- as if neither had to be chosen over the other, as if both could without any dissonance be embraced -- Gerald would sometimes write as if his Welsh and Norman blood were two equal components of a single placid identity. In his Description of Wales, having outlined a program for the complete subjugation of the country in which he was born, Gerald turns to how the Welsh can effectively defend themselves:
Sed quoniam pro Anglis hactenus diligenter admodum et exquisite disseruimus, sicut autem ex utraque gente originem duximus, sic aeque pro utraque disputandum ratio dictat, ad Kambros denuo, in calce libelli, stilum vertamus. (2.10)
I have set out the case for the English with considerable care and in some detail. I myself am descended from both peoples, and it seems only fair that I should now put forth the opposite point of view. I therefore turn to the Welsh in this final chapter of my book.
Gerald writes here as if to be ex utraque gente originem ductus means that the blood of two races can comfortably course unconflicted veins. Yet Wales and England are not the two equal halves of a happy whole. From the English point of view, the Welsh are patently inferior, ineligible to imagine effective resistance to conquest. Gerald's placid reconciliation of two races at war is, in the end, mere wishful thinking. The frightening questions which his cheerfully amalgamative viewpoint avoids continue to loom. What happens when a person is possessed of a nature compounded of two identities that remain incompatible? What happens when no terminology exists to express a self made of unequal parts, when one's inner nature is reductively defined by a language one never chose? What happens when, despite the medieval tendency not to think in terms of mediating, transitional, or composite racial identities one in fact possesses just such an impossible selfhood?
In the course of the twelfth century, the dreadful binary separating the Welsh from the English grew starker and hardened. Little room existed between the racial extremes for some middle space, for some identity capable of inhabiting the gap between demarcations so keen. Yet the Welsh March presented precisely such a medial locus.[x] The term march is related to mearc, an Old English word for boundary. From the viewpoint of a dominant culture, a march is a frontier or border region, an ambiguous locus that exists between domestic stabilities and the perturbing otherness of a geographic elsewhere. Suspended between a powerful kingdom centered in London and a vigorous native resistance issuing especially from northern Wales, the twelfth-century Welsh March was a shifting, fluid, unstable geography.[xi] Belonging neither to Wales nor to England, hybrid in its culture and mixed in its blood, possessed even of its own law, the March was a place where identities, like boundaries, were in the process of congealing but had yet to be firmly fixed.[xii]
To designate the hybrid expanse where he was born, Gerald typically used the Latin transliteration marchia. Choosing a label to designate its occupants, at least those descended from its most recent colonizers, was far more difficult. When speaking of the people who, like his family, had made the March their own through brute force and matrimonial alliance, Gerald usually used the words nostri or nostra gens ("our men" or "our race"). In fact Gerald tends to alternate the Latin noun gens with genus, both of which are terms that typically designate a distinct racial group, such as the gens Hibernica, Gerald's nomination for the Irish. When indicating the Marchers, Gerald's Latin is frequently translated by contemporary medievalists rather neutrally as "family," "kinsmen" or "stock." These modern English terms do not adequately convey the sense of blood distinction from other races -- English, Normans, Welsh and Irish -- that he nearly always implies when speaking of nostra gens. Thus Gerald describes the Irish garrison c.1188 as composed of three separate peoples: Normanni, Angli, nostri, "the Normans [from Normandy], the English [the Anglo-Normans], and our men [the Marchers]" (Expugnatio 2.37). The Welsh, like the Irish, also form a race of their own, frequently in Gerald's designation gens barbara, a barbaric people (e.g. Descriptio Kambriae 2.9).
Race tends to be a conservative category. "New" peoples, whether newly arising or newly encountered, are typically slotted into pre-existent categories and do not force classificatory systems to expand. In implying that the Marchers constitute a gens in the sense of race rather than simply family, Gerald is positing what would have seemed a radical and shockingly recent ethnogenesis. The last attempt at a new racial mythology for Britain was Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1138), a project that had the effect of shoring up existent identity categories rather than opening new ones. Dudo of St Quentin's History of the Normans, a narrative of how that parvenu race arose from racial commingling in the tenth century, was never invoked by Gerald as a precedent, either because he did not know the text or because he tended to assume that the Welsh March had engendered a new racial group and did not feel a patent fact needed defense. Not surprisingly, he had immense difficulty convincing anyone besides the Marchers that such a race had in fact arisen.
Although much of the focus of this book is upon race as the culmination of a process of remembering, of history-writing that anchors an uncertain present in a stable past, race is also just as accurately a process of forgetting. Harold Godwineson can be memorialized as the last English king only after the fact that his mother was Danish is conveniently ignored. Edward the Confessor's Norman blood must likewise be passed over in silence for his sacred Englishness to be eligized. William the Conqueror might be the first Norman king, but he also carried an English inheritance, and the Normannitas that he supposedly embodies derives from a mongrel concatenation rather than a singular people. In twelfth-century Britain, the Norman- and Angevin-descended aristocracy, securely attached to their politically expedient self-designation as English, did not need any uncomfortable reminders that race is a mutable category, inevitably failing to provide the stability it promises. Yet Gerald of Wales was never allowed to forget his own mixed heritage. His argument that the Marchers might constitute a novel gens was forever haunted by forced remembrance of their constituent impurity. Gerald complained in his Symbolum Electorum that his enemies in England dismissed him as Welsh, while to the Welsh he seemed Norman French: "both peoples regard me as a stranger and one not their own ... one nation suspects me, the other hates me." Peter de Leia could be "two-handed in his persecution of me ... for to the French he made me a Welshman and an enemy of the kingdom, but to the Welsh he declared me to be French and their mortal foe in all things."[xiii] Within this rigid binarism little room existed for Gerald's vision of a novel and hybrid gens that was simultaneously Welsh, Norman, and neither.
The Welsh and the English alike could construe the Marchers as members of an enemy race, other and untrustworthy. The Marchers themselves insisted that they should not be so quickly reduced. We often glimpse Gerald and his family convincing themselves that they are not simply Welsh or Norman, nor some impure amalgamation of both, but a noble distillation of two races into a distinct and glorious third. In a speech that Gerald places in the mouth of his uncle Robert fitzStephen, the leader of the Marcher lords in their conquest of Ireland, Gerald envisions how nostra gens might happily combine the best aspects of a dual constitution into a transcendent, novel form:
In part we come of Trojan blood [Troiano partim ex sanguine] by direct line of descent. But we are also partly descended from the men of France [ex Gallis], and take our character in part from them. From the former we get our courage, and from the latter our skill in the use of arms. So we are equally brave and versed in arms because of our twofold character and noble ancestry on both sides. (Expugnatio Hibernica 1.9)
Making use of an ancient myth thunderously reframed by Geoffrey of Monmouth, a story of origins in which the Welsh race descend from Trojan refugees, Gerald's Robert argues that the Marchers are of a doubled [duplici, from the adjective duplex] nature, mingling the classical bravery of Troy with the indisputable martial record of the French-speaking Normans.[xiv] That this is an act of ventriloquism on Gerald's part is indicated by his repetition of the same declaration in his own voice later in the Expugnatio Hibernica, his detailed account of the Marcher campaigns in Ireland. During a section entitled Generis Commendacio ("Praise of the Race," 2.10), Gerald describes his kinsmen as being of a "twinned nature" (gemina natura), inheriting raw courage from their Trojan ancestors and skill at the use of weapons from the French.[xv]
Yet despite their evident pride in racial commingling, both these formulations betray a fair amount of defensiveness, if not evasiveness. Gerald consistently describes the Marchers' Welsh blood as coming from the Troiani [Trojans] rather than from the Britones or Wallenses, the proper Latin words for the contemporary Welsh.[xvi] This silent substitution pushes half of the Marcher ancestry back into the mythy depths of classical history rather than acknowledge the bloody contemporary struggles in which Welsh identity actually inhered. The contemporary Welsh, potentially a gens barbara, vanish from the Marcher bloodline, replaced by noble Trojan forebears.[xvii] This patina of Roman epic enables Gerald to formulate with confidence the alchemy producing nostra gens, a courageous new race. And even that designation itself is equivocal: one can refer to nostra gens only if one happens to belong to it. Outside of a ridiculously verbose formulation like gens in Kambrie marchia nutrita ("the race nurtured in the Welsh March"), Gerald must acknowledge that the vocabulary for nominating the people he wants to distinguish simply does not exist.[xviii]
As he forcefully articulates his synthetic Marcher identity, Robert fitzStephen betrays no hesitation. A speech later in the Expugnatio Hibernica by another of Gerald's uncles, however, suggests just how unsteady a foundation this bravado was actually built upon. Just before engaging in battle against the Irish, Maurice fitzGerald admits what Gerald was later to learn personally through the "two-handed persecution" by Peter de Leia. Race is relational, and therefore precarious:
We are now constrained in our actions by this circumstance, that just as we are English as far as the Irish are concerned, likewise to the English we are Irish [ut sicut Hibernicis Angli, sic et Anglis Hibernici simus], and the inhabitants of this island and the other assail us with an equal degree of hatred (Expugnatio Hibernica 1.23)
An alien on both islands, Britain and Ireland, Maurice gives voice in vivid language to what might be called the postcolonial dilemma, the inability of those hybrid beings who live in the aftermath of conquest to find a secure category of selfhood in which to belong. Intermarriage with Welsh royalty ensured that the Marchers could never be as English [anglici] as the former Normans who ruled England, Normans whose own intermarriages had usefully hastened their disappearance into England. Conquest likewise ensures that the Irish [Hibernici] will never see in the Marchers anything but reviled imperialists, no different from the "true" English (French-speaking or not) who likewise were scrambling for their lands.
Suspended between categories, Maurice arrives at a simple solution. He will not think too much about the doubleness of his blood, and urges his family and followers to do the same: "Let us breach the barriers of hesitation [mora] and inertia [ignavia], for 'fortune favors the brave'!" (1.23). Maurice's Irish battle cry is suggestive. The entire Marcher expedition to Ireland could be seen as bloody attempt to avoid the complications of carrying a twofold [duplex] identity.[xix] Robert fitz Stephen, Gerald writes, originally sailed to Ireland because he was caught in an impossible bind, precipitated by his dual allegiances. Captured by his cousin Rhys ap Gruffydd, prince of South Wales, Robert was released only after he promises to assist in battling the incursions of Henry II against Wales. Yet to take up arms against England would be to betray a side of his family. To further complicate matters, Nesta, Robert's Welsh mother, was the mother of at least eleven children, fathered by five different men. One of these men was the future Henry I, to whom at the age of fifteen she had born a son, a boy who eventually became the powerful Robert of Gloucester. Nest had also had two sons, Llewellyn and Einion, while a captive to her cousin Owain ap Cadwgan, the prince of Powys; the latter child eventually became steward to his half-brother Robert of Gloucester, demonstrating just how complicated the ties were that connected the family connected to Nest.[xx] These complex affiliations meant that Robert fitz Stephen, the last of Nest's children (born c.1117), was pulled in his blood both towards and away from the English court, towards and away from Welsh politics. This intricate web of competing gravities threatened to ensnare him fatally.
Robert's solution to these intractably conflicted allegiances was to "breach the barriers of hesitation and inertia," quit Britain and take up arms in Ireland. Enlisting his half-brothers, David and Maurice fitzGerald, Robert convinced Rhys to allow him to aid the exiled king Diarmait Mac Murda to regain his Irish throne (Expugnatio Hibernica 1.2). On that island Robert could at least wage war against a people who were definitively not of his blood. By crossing a narrow sea, Robert fitzStephen and the Marcher lords who sailed in his company found a geography in which mixed heritage and discordant allegiances were, for a while, simply beside the point. Ireland was a vast field of martial engagement, an island on which to slaughter an enemy or perish in the attempt. Battlefields foster neither mora nor ignavia, neither hesitation nor inertia. Though born into a warrior family, Gerald had been trained as a cleric, not a fighter. Early in his career Gerald likewise learned to allay his ambivalence of origin by becoming an enthusiastic chronicler of his family's conquest of Ireland. Though visible from Welsh shores, the island seemed distant enough for him to imagine its vast expanses as inhabited by an unambiguously alien race. Detailing the Hibernice gentis expugnacionem et tam barbare nacionis feritatem his nostris temporibus edomitam ("the subjugation and dispossession of the Irish race, and the taming of the ferociousness of this barbarous nation in our own time") -- as he described his project to the ascendant King Richard -- allowed Gerald to forget for a while the similarly violent history of colonization that had bestowed upon him the painful gift of gemina natura, a twinned nature.[xxi] Gerald composed two Irish texts, the Topographia Hibernica and the Expugnatio Hibernica. Both have a tendency to wobble with the sheer variety of materials with which Gerald fills their every crevice, especially as he revised the texts over time, adding ever more data and anecdotes. Yet both are in the end reductive works that unabashedly glorify the conquest of a foreign land. Neither demonstrates much of the conflicted identifications that would characterize his later writing about Wales.
Gerald's earliest work was the Topographia Hibernica (The Topography of Ireland, c. 1187). He had sailed across the Irish sea twice: the first time with his brother, Philip de Barri, to claim lands for the family; and the second in the retinue of Prince John, who was traveling to assert his overlordship of the island. Though Henry had been intent on curbing the power of Gerald's family in both the March and Ireland, the book is dedicated to the English king, a monarch who had personally led an expedition to Ireland in 1171 to receive the submission of native kings. Like many of Gerald's compositions, the Topography has no precise model, combining history, anecdote and a proliferation of marvels with ethnography and natural history. It is a book full of unsystematic detail and of stories that multiply with such rapidity that the reader often feels like the portal to a new world of possibility has been opened wide. Yet few contemporary scholars would disagree with James Cain's opinion that the text provides a "blueprint for colonial occupation" as well as a "scholarly justification" for the English conquest of Ireland.[xxii] The text describes this island towards which England had long ago turned a covetous eye as a geography abounding in wonder and deviation. David Rollo's estimation of the Topography as "a written landscape that is inhabited by a bizarre menagerie of outlandish monstrosities and vitiated by infections of scorn, disdain and slander" pretty much sums up contemporary opinion of the work.[xxiii]
Yet the work is not all monsters, oddities and vituperation. A recurrent theme throughout the text is the lives and habits of animals, making the text read more like Pliny than Macaulay's "Minute on Indian Education." Included among these fauna are lake fish (1.5-6); hawks, falcons, eagles, cranes, ospreys, kingfishers, swans, storks, "barnacle geese," crows (1.8-17); badgers and beavers (1.19-20), reptiles (1.21-22), wolves (2.59), ravens and blackbirds (2.60-61). The Topography also discusses beasts of a more fantastic kind: unboilable little ducks called teal that enjoy the special protection of Saint Colman (2.62), Saint Brigid's falcon (2.70), fleas banished by Saint Nannan and rats expelled by saint Yvor (2.64-65), a frog whose presence predicted the English invasion of the island (1.25), a fish with three gold teeth that likewise figured imminent conquest (2.43). These various creatures serve a multitude of purposes in the text: vaticinal allegories, anthropomorphic fables of virtue or vice, wonders of nature that assist Gerald in his endeavor to render the island as strange as possible.
Sometimes, however, these animals are people.
Take, for example, the case of the Irish werewolves. Three years before Gerald arrives on the island, a priest journeying to Meath stopped for the night beneath a large tree (Topographia 2.52). A wolf approached his campfire. "Do not be afraid!" the beast announced, a lupine version of the angel's declaration of the birth of Christ to frightened shepherds. The animal explains that the very human denizens of his village were cursed by Saint Natalis to take turns inhabiting the bodies of wolves, an exile form human form lasting seven years for each participant. The werewolf then begs his interlocutor to accompany him to his ill mate and perform last rites. When the priest follows but is dubious about giving communion to what is clearly an animal, the wolf pulls back his companion's fur, revealing a dying woman inside. The hesitant priest acquiesces, eventually informing his bishop about his actions. The bishop in turn relates the story to Gerald.
This strange little episode is, like all the marvels that Gerald so casually relates, richly suggestive. Caroline Walker Bynum has recently interpreted "Gerald and the Werewolf" (as she calls the encounter) as a typical twelfth-century meditation on the stability of identity in the face of somatic metamorphosis. It is difficult to disagree with such a reading, since Gerald himself indicates that it posed exactly such an invitation to theology when he turned to a revision of the Topographia many years after its initial composition. Yet when the episode is taken as it rather starkly stands in the first version of the Topographia, unadorned and uninterpreted by its author, it is difficult not to see in the body of the Irish werewolves the flesh of Irish race.[xxiv] Gerald leaves us in no doubt what this particular animal represents when he writes later in the same work that "Wolves in Ireland generally have their young in December, either because of the extreme mildness of the climate, or rather as a symbol of the evils of treachery and plunder which here blossom before their season" (2.59).[xxv] The Irish inside their wolfskins are not very different from the treacherous, plunder-driven Irish inside their human forms; their lycanthropy only makes visible what they already were, and perhaps that is why we never learn why the villagers earned a saint's curse. The Irish are a people, Gerald writes, who have not yet attained the trappings of modernity. They do not build towns, mint coins, codify laws. Their manner of dress, customs, coiffure, and religious practice declare their brutish state. In a culminating description Gerald dismisses the gens Hibernica in terms that render them indistinguishable from their counterparts in the Hibernian fauna:
Although they are fully endowed with natural gifts, their external characteristics of beard and dress, and internal cultivation of the mind, are so barbarous that they cannot be said to have any culture … This people is a barbarous people, literally barbarous. Judged according to modern ideas, they are uncultivated, not only in the external appearance of their dress, but also in the flowing hair and beards. All their habits are the habits of barbarians. (3.93)[xxvi]
The humane possibilities of the Irish ("fully endowed with natural gifts") have vanished beneath an obscuring wolfskin of barbarous "beard and dress" and a bestializing lack of mental cultivation. Just in case we have not yet got the point that there is something not fully human about the race, he adds Est autem gens haec gens silvestris, gens inhospita, gens ex bestiis solum et bestialiter vivens ("They are a wild and inhospitable people. They live on beasts only, and live like beasts," 3.93).
Gerald uses animal bodies as figures for Irish race, as embodiments of Irish blood. No surprise, then, the sexual aberration to which the gens Hibernica is most addicted turns out to be bestiality, quo vitio praecipue gens ista laborat, "the particular vice of that people." Whole towns have, in Gerald's account, been wiped from the face of the island in divine retribution for a too passionate love of animals (e.g. Lough Neagh, 2.42). In a rite that Gerald takes great relish in narrating, the people of northern Ulster even inaugurate their king by watching him have "bestial intercourse" with a white mare (3.102).[xxvii] The ritual culminates in the consumption of the equine's flesh, a transgression of alimentary taboo which, if not as severe as intercourse with beasts, still represents a mingling of human and animal bodies in a proscribed way. Christian communities in Britain did not consume horseflesh.[xxviii] To the knightly class to which Gerald belonged, horses were an almost a sacred animal, distinguishing the noble chevalier from quotidian footsoldiers and archers. Gerald probably realized that in Ireland the cow and not the horse was the more culturally revered animal, since for the Irish cattle were wealth incarnate. Ireland was not a monetary economy like England. In possession of herds inhered the difference between power and powerlessness. Cattle were by extension the embodiment of status and honor, the foundation of prestige, the concrete expression of the hierarchy that structured Irish society.[xxix] How debasing and perverse, then, for Gerald to declare that the preferred sex partner for Irish men was their precious cow.
The intertwining of racial inferiority, bestiality (innate Irish animality and sexual vice), and an all too literal desire for cattle culminates in Gerald's narration of the tragically brief life of the semibos vir, the Irish Ox Man. Placed at the center of Gerald's book, this strange creature is granted a tragic gravity that not only haunts all that follows in the Topographia but, with its uncharacteristic undercurrent of melancholy, ambivalence and regret, provokes a rereading of the wonders that have preceded.[xxx] In 1174 the same Maurice fitzGerald we earlier witnessed exhorting the Marchers to ignore their mixed blood and blaze into battle took possession of a castle [castrum obtinuerat]in Wicklow. A strange creature appeared, "an extraordinary man [homo prodigiosus] -- if indeed it be right to call him a man" (Topographia 2.54). Hairless except for some tufts of down, he possessed a roughly human form, but his arms and legs ended in hooves. His ox-like eyes were huge, round, and brown; his face flat; instead of a nose he possessed mere slits. No words issued from his deformed mouth, only bovine lowing: "Verba ei nulla. Mugitum enim tantum pro sermone reddebat" ["He had no words. Instead of speaking, he would emit a great bellowing"]. This prodigy at Wicklow is the Ox Man or semibos vir, a designation that Gerald takes from Ovid's description of the Minotaur. This creature became a dependent of Maurice's castle, where his daily feedings took on all the air of a circus sideshow: "He came to dinner every day and, using his cleft hooves as hands, placed in his mouth whatever was given him to eat."
Maurice's beloved pet attends his court for many years. His young retainers (juventute castri, "youths of the castle"), however, never wearied of taunting the local Irish that had begotten many such beings on the local herds (quod tales in vaccis genuissent). Some of these natives secretly murder the Ox Man, a fate that Gerald bluntly declares he in no way deserved (Topographia 2.54). It could be that the Irish were acting out of frustration at a racial jeer repeated too many times, but Gerald does not in fact suggest anger as a motive, only invidia, "envy" (at the fact that the Ox Man was so well incorporated into the Wicklow settlement while they were excluded?) and innate malitia, "malice." He adds that coitus with cows is "a particular vice" of the Irish race. Just before the English conquest, he reports, a "human bull calf" (vitulum virilem) was born in the mountains around Glendalough, the result of intercourse between a man and his bovine paramour.[xxxi] This creature pastured among its fellows in the herd for a year, happily nourished by its mother's milk, and then was "transferred to the society of men." No more is given of the Man Bull's story, no intimation that this odd being had any difficulty adapting from his maternal herd to his father's communitas. The implication is clear. The Man Bull easily assimilated, his cow's blood posing no great impediment to Irish belonging. Indeed, given the native ardor for bovines, he may well have possessed an entire herd of friends. The blood of Irish race, it seems, is interchangeable with the blood of Irish fauna.
Tied in their body to cattle, the Irish are little better beasts themselves. Like the island itself, the people need to be domesticated, in formam simul et normam redacta ("subdued into an ordered and measured state," Expugnatio Hibernica 2.34). Other writers such as William of Newburgh and William of Malmesbury insisted on the barbarity of the Irish race, yet none took reductive description to the detailed extremes of Gerald. Nor was Gerald's audience wholly without skepticism, especially concerning his repeated narration of Irish bestiality. The Expugnatio Hibernica begins with a vigorous defense of the very episodes in the Topographia that I have been examining. His critics, Gerald admits, find it unlikely that a wolf would talk with a priest, or that there could exist bovina humano corpori extrema ("a human body which has the extremities of an ox," Introduction). Gerald cites biblical and patristic precedent for talking beasts and incredible wonders, but he makes no apology for his equating an entire race with randy and uncultured beasts.
It could be, as James Cain has argued, that the semibos vir, the "unlikely cowboy from Wicklow," is a figure for the Irish themselves, a race so bestial that have become animals even in their bodies.[xxxii] Yet Gerald's narration of the tragically short life of the Ox Man does not quite fit his unremittingly reductive program elsewhere. He is quite specific in the Expugnatio about when the Ox Man appears, linking his sudden presence at Maurice's Wicklow to the arrival of William FitzAldelin as the king's deputy on the island. The royal persecution of Gerald's increasingly powerful family begins immediately, with William swearing to "end the arrogance" of the Marchers. Gerald launches into a formal and rhetorically ornate defense of his family, then adds almost as an afterthought:
About this same time, just a short time previously, there appeared at Wicklow a monster [vir prodigiosus], the result of a vice prevalent among that people, who had been begotten by a man on a cow. His body was that of a man, but the extremities of his limbs were those of an ox, as is described in the Topography.[xxxiii]
Gerald then returns to his historical narration, announcing that uncle Maurice died shortly after William FitzAldelin began his greedy amassing of Irish land and wealth. Maurice's death causes "great sorrow among his people." We know of course that the Ox Man will likewise cause great sorrow at his passing, but this time specifically for Gerald, a sadness that he normally reserves only for the passing of his family. In the Topographia, Gerald evinces sympathy for the Man Bull or for the Irish themselves.[xxxiv] Unlike the semivir bos, the man-like animal of Glendalough, the semibos vir of Maurice's Wicklow is (despite some initial hesitation on Gerald's part) undeniably human. Like the Cretan Minotaur doomed to his winding labyrinth, the Ox Man at his uncle's castle carries in his alien body a discordant mixture of identities, of differences not amenable to synthesis.
Given Gerald's fondness for expressing race through a vocabulary of animality or species, it is difficult not to see in the monster of Wicklow a figure for gemina natura: twinned nature, dual race. Murderously rejected by the indigenous population, sustained by a court amused by his spectacular oddness but discerning in his voice only meaningless sound, the Ox Man nurtured at the Marcher's colonial outpost belongs nowhere. In the irresolvable differences that the semibos vir incarnated, in this monstrous body teetering between categories, achingly new, perhaps Gerald reluctantly beheld a vision of his own hopelessly heterogeneous self. For the Irish were not the only gens ex bestiis solum et bestialiter vivens of the British Islands, at least as far as England was concerned.[xxxv]
Of the Knight and Bull
No one knows for certain how Gilbert Hagurnell fell in love with the bull. Was the knight returning home to Brecknockshire after a campaign against the princes of the north, weary to the bone of a fighting that never seemed to end? Perhaps on a moonlit evening, the more precious for its winter rarity, the tired rider first glimpsed all that bovine muscle, frisky in the field. It could be that he surrendered to the animal then and there, the blood of war lost in a forgetful orgy.
Or perhaps it was a slower process of bull and knight in mutual admiration. We may imagine that Gilbert's dreams were haunted by the glow of lunar silver on dark eyes, black snout, a tail that flicked with casual indifference. Long days in windy fields brought the two lovers closer, Gilbert clasping a handful of grass like a lover's bouquet, his quivering lips pressed ever nearer to sniffing nostrils. Cold stars and scud clouds found the knight out of bed, restlessly roaming the field with a desire he could not speak. At last a drenching rain brought man and animal to the shelter of a lonely hut, and perhaps it was there that they were first moved to consummate their love. Gilbert must have offered himself to the bull with an awkwardness that, he hoped, did not make his beloved think any the less of his passion.
Who knows if knight and bull burned with an equal ardor, or if for one or the other the relationship was simply convenient, a joyfully uncomplicated surrender to lust. Who knows how many times these assignations were repeated, or even how long Gilbert Hagurnell knew the bull to which he humbly offered himself. But the consequences of the secret trysts were clear to everyone. On a certain day the knight felt his abdomen contract as if in an attempt to expel something inside. Perhaps Gilbert knew already what his taurine union had engendered upon him, perhaps he had felt the first stirrings of life within an expanding belly months before, but the fact of the matter is this. Gilbert Hagurnell spent three years in unremitting anguish, his body wracked by the severest of labor pains. Eventually his ache climaxed, and maybe he even felt the first push of a snout heading for the exit. At any rate he managed to attract a multitude of onlookers, witnesses to the culmination of his labors: the birth of a calf -- a boy [vitulus], as it turns out. We do not know if the witnesses applauded or ran in fear. Did they really believe the explanation (perhaps offered by the embarrassed parent himself) that this birth was simply an omen of some impending catastrophe, a sign delivered by God through his innocent and suffering body? Or did they hold with the sole medieval reporter of this marvel when he tartly observed that Gilbert Hagurnell was being punished for some unnatural act of vice?
Journeys through Wales
Before Gerald's family turned their thoughts to Ireland, they had been leaders in the Norman conquest of Wales. His maternal grandfather and namesake was the celebrated Gerald of Windsor, a knight whose progeny were often referred to as the fitzGeralds or Geraldines in his honor. The younger son of a constable to William I, Gerald of Windsor eventually rose from his position as steward to Arnulf de Montgomery to become a powerful man in his own right. Not surprisingly, Gerald of Wales adored not his grandfather's considerable martial prowess but his cleverness. He narrates the following illustration in his Itinerarium Kambriae (Journey through Wales). In those perilous days of the late eleventh century when the Norman adventurers who had first assayed the country were beset by Welsh revolt, Arnulf hastily built a little fortress of turf and stakes in remote Pembroke. Erecting fortifications in territories about to be annexed was a Norman specialty, enabling a secure base of operations from which to raid. Gerald himself had been born c.1146 in one of these battlements, the formidable castle of Manorbier. Compared to most Norman edifices, however, Arnulf de Montgomery's stockade was rather miserable, offering little protection from the people whose land he was claiming. He quickly retreated back to England, leaving his lieutenant Gerald of Windsor in charge. Surrounded by Welsh troops who had been enraged by the recent, treacherous death of their prince, Rhys ap Tewdwr, Gerald and his garrison knew that they could not endure long. Fifteen of his knights deserted by cover of darkness. Hastily dubbing their men at arms to take their place, Gerald promised that, should they live through the siege, these new knights would also gain their masters' lands. Provisions dwindled and the Welsh showed no sign of lifting their assault of the shabby fort. Gerald ordered the remaining hogs be cut into pieces and hurled at the enemy. He wrote a letter to Arnulf declaring that they would need neither reinforcements nor supplies for at least the next four months. The missive was "accidentally" dropped a few miles from the fortress, where the besiegers would be sure to find it. The gullible Welsh broke the siege immediately and dispersed. Whereas Arnulf would eventually fall from royal grace, his steward became constable of Pembroke castle and married Nesta, so beautiful that she was called Helen of Wales (Journey Through Wales 1.12). Nesta was also the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdyr, prince of Deheubarth. By allying himself with a powerful local figure Gerald secured a firm foothold in South Wales. He also introduced Welsh blood into his family line, a fact that was to haunt his descendants in ways Gerald could hardly have dreamt.
Gerald of Windsor's bloodless defeat of his enemy intrigued his grandson Gerald of Wales, most likely because it demonstrated a family shrewdness that he himself inherited. Yet the Norman conquest of Wales and the process of subjugating the Welsh were brutal. Needless to say, the Welsh attempted much the same violence against their oppressors as had been unleashed upon them. They fought occupation with whatever tools came to hand: swords, sabotage, and – in at least one case – the strategic deployment of racial stereotypes against those who circulated them. According to Gerald's Journey through Wales, when Henry II was preparing to seize Pencader, the king sent a trustworthy knight from Brittany to reconnoiter the terrain and report on local defenses. This nameless noble was accompanied on his mission by Guaidan, Dean of Cantref Mawr, instructed "to lead the knight … by the easiest route and to make his journey as pleasant as possible."[xxxvi] Gerald describes the Breton's nightmarish sojourn in words that recall his grandfather's laudable subterfuge:
[The Welsh priest] made a point of taking him along the most difficult and inaccessible trackways. Whenever they passed through lush woodlands, to the great astonishment of all present, he plucked a handful of grass and ate it, thus giving the impression that in time of need the local inhabitants lived on roots and grasses. (1.10)
When the knight from Brittany finally returns to his monarch, he declares in utter exasperation that the district is inaccessible, impossible to settle, and yields enough nourishment only for genti bestiali et bestiarum more viventi, "a bestial race of people, content to live like animals." Henry decides that region is not worth conquering and instead releases the captive prince Rhys ap Gruffydd to hold the land in tenure for him.
That the Breton knight should find the inhabitants of Pencader to be indistinguishable from grazing beasts is likely to have surprised no one in the royal entourage, since it only confirmed a representation of the Welsh that their oppressors had long been circulating. Bede's authoritative Ecclesiastical History had bequeathed to English history the idea that the Britons were an inferior race; even Isidore of Seville had declared that word Briton derived from the brutish life of those it designated (eo quod bruti sint, Etymologiae 9.2.102). The monsterization of the Welsh, however, took on a special urgency in the twelfth century, especially during the tumultuous reign of Stephen, a time during which they became (to use Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's term) "internal primitives."[xxxvii] In the aftermath of the uprisings that erupted upon the death of Henry I, military campaigns that temporarily reversed the English conquest and transformed the subjugation of Wales from a seeming inevitability to a project of uncertain outcome, the Welsh were officially declared a monstrous race, a perilous people forever suspended between the categories of rational human and dangerous animal. When viewed from the southeast portions of the island, their "'barbarous rudeness'" contrasted in every way with the "'sweet civility'" of the English way of life, a formulation that also suggests the way in which the supposed otherness of the Welsh undergirded English self-definition.[xxxviii] Thus excluded, the Welsh (like the Irish and the Scots) could henceforth regain their humanity only through Anglicization, through a process of assimilation in which they would lose all markers of their separate identity by admitting the superiority of England and its modern ways.
The English ecclesiast and philosopher John of Salisbury (c.1115-1180) labeled the Welsh gens enim rudis et indomita bestiali more uiuens "a raw and untamed race, living in the manner of beasts."[xxxix] The Gesta Stephani, a royalist account of the perturbations in the realm between 1135-1154, succinctly describes Wales and its denizens as primitive, primal, full of natural potential but rough and uncultivated:
Now Wales is a country of woodland and pasture, immediately bordering on England, stretching far along the coast on one side of it, abounding in deer and fish, milk and herds; but it breeds men of an animal type [hominum nutrix bestialium], naturally swift-footed, accustomed to war [consuetudine bellantium], volatile always in breaking their word as in changing their abodes.
Whereas in this text the Norman conquest has the effect simply of subjugating the English [Anglos subiugarunt], Wales and its inhabitants require a process of modernization that includes instruction in proper architecture, jurisdiction, agriculture, and civic order:
When war came and the Normans conquered the English, this land they added to their dominion and fortified with numberless castles; they perseveringly civilized it after they had vigorously subdued its inhabitants; to encourage peace they imposed law and statutes on them; and they made the land so productive and abounding in all kinds of resources that you would have reckoned it in no wise inferior to the most fertile part of Britain.[xl]
Just as the land needs proper cultivation in order to render its raw resources the equal of the English regions of the isle, so its wild denizens require the civilizing power of proper law, custom, settlement, and social structure -- that is, they must be transformed into westerly versions of their English counterparts, transformed out of their very race. Civilization [constanter excoluere] is here a process that will lead the Welsh out of their innate animality [hominum nutrix bestialium] into something closer to the full humanity possessed by the author and his kindred souls among England's political and ecclesiastical elite.[xli] The Welsh demonstrate their own intransigence when, shortly after being subdued, they rebel against their hated masters in an orgy of plunder, conflagration, and murder (Gesta 1.8). In short, while giving what he believes is a factual report to King Henry, the weary Breton knight in Gerald's Pencader narrative is in fact mouthing official propaganda about the barbaric state of Wales, even employing what had become familiar Latin terms (genti bestiali, bestiarum more) for the representation of the Welsh.
Representations of the feral Welsh were to be found in contemporary vernacular literature as well. Chrétien de Troyes deployed a version in Li Contes del Graal [The Story of the Grail]. The hero of this widely popular French romance is simple Perceval, a backwoods Welshman who cannot tell the difference between an angel descended from heaven and quotidian knights in armor. One of these knights declares to his incredulous lord of the gaping rustic:
Sire, sachiez bien antreset
Que Galois sont tuit par nature
Plus fol que bestes an pasture:
Cist est ausi com une beste.
"Sir, you must be aware that all Welshmen are by nature stupider than beasts in the field: this one is just like a beast."[xlii]
Though a scene from romance, the passage could just as easily have been uttered by one of the knights accompanying Henry II through Pencader in Gerald's narration. In the face of Guiaidan's mimicry of indigenous barbarism, the Welsh are reconfirmed as irrational (fol) and feral (com une beste). Chrétien's choice of a Welshman as a future Arthurian knight was meant to be absurd: how can the chivalric code ever include bestes an pasture? The answer, of course, is that Perceval's long process of becoming a Christian chevalier is really a transformative loss of the signifiers of his Welshness. Chivalry is, after all, a mode of acculturation, a synonym for a francophile masculinity available only to cultural elites. The Welsh tended to fight on foot, did not use metal armor, and typically preferred weapons adapted to sylvan terrain and ambush warfare. As he learns to ride a warhorse, wear armor, and fight with lance and sword, the knight-in-training slowly assimilates out of his native racial identity. A religiously-themed romance based on Chrétien's story, La Queste del Saint Graal [The Quest for the Holy Grail] makes the bond between Perceval's race and his initial exclusion from Arthur's court explicit. His Welsh identity is aligned with a culture of parricide: "In those days the people of Wales were so insensate and fanatical that if a son found his father lying in bed by reason of some sickness, he dragged him out by the head or the arms and made a summary end of him."[xliii] The slaying of father by son is rendered more reprehensible by the fact that within Welsh society a senseless act of murder can mean something – can, indeed, be valued. Such uncivilized people exist only to be displaced, eradicated, or (at least in Perceval's case) assimilated into proper bodies and modes of being.
No matter how much Gerald disliked a race, he always made exceptions for those who proved themselves admirably clever. The archbishop of Cashel, confronted by Gerald's remark that Ireland had produced no martyrs because its people failed to honor their faith, replies in words that seem to acknowledge the stereotypes which Gerald is promulgating but, like the Dean of Cantref Mawr in Wales, slyly undercuts them:
"Although our people are very barbarous, uncivilized, and savage, nevertheless they have always paid honour and reverence to churchmen ... But now a people has come to the kingdom which knows how, and is accustomed to make martyrs. From now on Ireland will have its martyrs" (Topographia Hibernica 3.107)
The archbishop's reply amuses Gerald, but it does not seem to have stung him into rethinking the conquest of the island. Guaidan of Cantref Mawr presents a challenge less easy to laugh away. Guaidan is connected to Gerald in a way that no Irishman could ever be, a bond both of history and of blood. Perhaps this tie explains why Guaidan is allowed to take the Irish archbishop's anticolonial cleverness to an extreme, inhabiting the image of Welsh bestiality to empty it of meaning. Devouring grass with feral gusto, plodding through trackless forests with the instinctual zeal of a woodlander, the Welsh priest seems the living embodiment of John of Salisbury's gens rudis et indomita bestiali more uiuens. Guaidan returns to the colonizers the very message they have disseminated, bringing about the release of the captive prince and preventing a more forceful subjugation of his country. For Gerald's readers, the racializing stereotype evaporates. Henry and the Breton knight reveal that they are the Perceval-like naïfs, while the Welsh become the clever manipulators of idées fixes. The episode specifically redeems Rhys ap Gruffyd, prisoner of the king "more by a trick than by force of arms" (Journey 1.10), but at the same time it liberates the Welsh in general from a demeaning and widespread representation of their race.
Subtly deploying odious stereotypes against their promulgators is not Guiadan's invention, even if he is especially endearing in its subversive use. The postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha has called such moments of deflective doubleness "sly civility."[xliv] Bhabha takes the phrase from a sermon in which Archdeacon Potts complained that recalcitrant Indians were cleverly agreeing with the truth of Christian theology in order to remain unbaptized: "If you urge them with their gross and unworthy misconceptions of the nature and the will of God, of the monstrous follies of their fabulous theology, they will turn it off with a sly civility perhaps, or with a popular and careless proverb."[xlv] When colonizers come across such difficult moment of resistance, their supreme confidence inevitably (if perhaps momentarily) falters. Sly civility (or, in Guiadan's case, sly uncivility) challenges not through blunt resistance but through a perturbing assent, troubling the self-assured foundation upon which differences of culture are sorted, established, judged. Through his brilliant mimicry of the bestial Welsh, Guaidan brings about a hesitation in the text during which the conquest of "Wild Wales" becomes a problem rather than a confident program, capturing an underlying uncertainty that Bhabha argues characterizes all colonialism. This ambivalence perpetually haunts Gerald in his relation to his place of origin.
Unlike his Hibernian writings, hesitations and conflicted allegiances are everywhere in Gerald's Welsh texts, the Itinerarium Kambriae (Journey through Wales) and Descriptio Kambriae (Description of Wales).[xlvi] In composing a detailed description of the land to which he does and does not belong, for example, Gerald suggests in a chapter entitled Qualiter gens ista sit expugnanda ("How the Welsh can be conquered," Description of Wales 2.8) that the country be emptied of its barbarous inhabitants and perhaps transformed into a game preserve. He then adds another chapter, Qualiter eadem resistere valeat, et rebellare ("How the Welsh can best fight back and keep up their resistance," 2.10).[xlvii] Tellingly, he completes the Description of Wales by returning to Pencader, the site of Guaidan's quietly seditious mimicry in the Journey Through Wales. King Henry asks an elderly Welshman serving in the royal army if he thinks that the native rebels, the soldier's kinsmen, will ever be subdued. The man's reply to the king is stunning. Wales may well be decimated by England, he says, just as it has been decimated by others since the Trojan forebears of the Welsh settled the island long ago. Nevertheless, he asserts, "I do not think that on the Day of Direst Judgement any race other than the Welsh, or any other language, will give answer to the Supreme Judge of all for this small corner of the earth" (2.10).[xlviii] Gerald here resolves, at least for a moment, the roiling conflict within his own identity by crossbreeding Christian futurity (the Last Judgment) to secular history (the Welsh as bearers of ancient Trojan blood) and articulating its resultant progeny in a language he himself conspicuously never uses. Though translated into clerical Latin, the final answer to God, which is in fact a "final" answer to Henry's colonialist demand, comes in a pure Welsh that binds past to future, a resistant temporality outside of Norman, Angevin, English fantasies of racial progress. Sly civility indeed.
Like many modern writers, and unlike the majority of medieval ones, Gerald of Wales found no topic more fascinating than himself. About twenty of his compositions survive, many in multiple versions. Most relate, at some point or another, the rich minutiae of his life: a happy childhood passed at Manorbier castle in Wales, where he built cathedrals out of sand and his dad affectionately called him meus episcopus ("my bishop"); the stresses of growing up on a frontier, such as the night when enemy raids outside the castle caused the young man to burst into tears and seek the safety of the church; student days passed in cosmopolitan Paris, full of heady intellectualism; travels through Ireland, Wales, France, Italy; his struggle to get kings, bishops and popes to read the books he so tirelessly produced; travails at the English court, at his archdeaconry in Brecon, at his semi-retirement in Lincoln.[xlix] Next to autobiography, however, the topic to which Gerald turned most repeatedly in his early works was probably the lives of animals. His Journey Through Wales is full of stories about loyal and heroic dogs (1.7), weasels that poison milk to exact their revenge on human malefactors (1.12), prophetic songbirds (1.2), self-castrating beavers (2.3), a horde of man-eating toads that relentlessly nibble their victim until only a skeleton remains (2.2). As in his Hibernian writings, Welsh beasts so fascinated Gerald in part because they provided useful figures for human virtues and vices, fruitful material for narrative. As Gerald's fascination with Irish bestiality also demonstrated, the flesh of animals served him well for representing the flesh of race.
Irish animality assisted Gerald in his project of representing the gens Hibernica as subhuman, as undeserving of the land they occupied. That the semivir bos (Man Bull) of Glendalough could pass so easily between herd and Irish community implied that the Irish were, as in the insult hurled at Perceval's kinsmen, not all that different from bestes an pasture. The Irish Ox Man, however, told a different story. Because he belonged to two categories but could not be absorbed into either – because he had no possibility of home other than the Marcher castle at Wicklow, a place of welcome as well as murderous violence – the Hibernian minotaur (semibos vir) stands at the limit of starkly dualistic racial thinking. This sympathetic monster was capable of engendering what uncle Maurice had decried as ignavia and mora, impedimental hesitation. In Ireland Gerald experienced the confidence of conquerors. In his Welsh writings, however, he became increasingly fascinated with hybrid figures like the semibos vir, with bodies that lose their integrity, their purity, and bring into the world new possibilities for identity.
The Journey through Wales reveals an obsession with corporeal commingling at almost every turn. The narrative ostensibly records a peregrination through Wales that Gerald made in the company of Baldwin, the elderly archbishop of Canterbury, to gather support for the Third Crusade. Gerald's Latin title, itinerarium, bore millennial associations, invoking journeys to the Holy Land and the Christian right to Palestine.[l] Yet the text is far too chockablock to be reduced to its initial raison d'être. A sprawling composite of travelogue, anecdote, imperialist cartography, crusading propaganda, and wide-ranging history, Gerald initially completed the Journey around 1191. He continued to tinker with the burgeoning work throughout his life, issuing a much-expanded version around 1197 and a third in perhaps 1214.[li] Even more than the Topographia, the Journey tends to move progress via an associative logic, wandering the byways of a fertile mind more than offering the pilgrimage to a secure destination that its title would seem to offer.[lii]
In a typical narrative arc, a boy steals pigeons from a church in Llanfaes and his hand adheres to the ecclesiastical stone in punishment, triggering an extended account of sinners who suffered similar fates: a woman of Bury St Edmunds once attempted to pilfer gold by taking coins in her mouth as she kissed a saint's shrine, and her lips and tongue adhered to the altar for a whole day; in Howden church, a parson's concubine irreverently sat on the tomb of Saint Osana, and her buttocks became fastened to the wood until the parishioners stripped and whipped her; in Winchcombe, a monk was divinely rebuked for having had intercourse the previous night when the prayerbook he carried attached itself to his unclean hands; at the same abbey, a woman who blasphemed a saint was punished while reading that very psalter so that "her two eyes were torn from her head and fell plop on the open book, where you can still see the marks of her blood [vestigia sanguinis] to this day" (1.2). What thematically connects these episodes widely scattered across geography and time is their fascinated gaze upon the human body as the site for a public spectacle of truth. The flesh is suddenly possessed by an agency which does not originate from the soul inhabiting it, and through a forced conjoining to sacred objects (church walls, altars, prayer books) is revealed as a hybrid space where the private and the spiritual cohabitate. The mistake these sinners make is to believe in their individuality, their autonomy. Gerald's narrative brings their bodies back within an ecclesiastical signification, a rhetorical move in every way consonant with the objectives of his and Baldwin's journey.
The episodes of punished flesh melded to sacred objects culminate in a second saintly blinding and a pair of impious lips fastened to the magic horn of St Patrick. A few words about the numinous power of bells over oathtakers are followed by the observation that when held to the ear, Saint Patrick's horn makes a sweet noise like an aeolian harp. Next comes what initially appears to be another "pure" (i.e. extraneous) wonder: a wild sow "suckled by a bitch remarkable for its acute sense of smell" matures into a hunting-pig that can track game better than most hounds (1.2). Gerald generalizes the episode into a truth about the perduring imprint parents make on the flesh of their offspring.[liii] A seemingly unrelated story follows, added by Gerald during his second revision of the Itinerarium (c.1197) apparently because it happened in the same region at about the same time. A man in Wales, it seems, once quite literally had a cow:
Miles enim, cui nomen Gillebertus, cognomen vero Hagurnellus, post diutinos continuosque fere triennii languores, et gravissimas tanquam parturientis angustias, demum, videntibus multis, per egestionis fenestram vitulum edidit: novi alicujus et inusitati futuri casus ostentum, aut potius nefandi criminis ultricem declarans indignationem.
In the same region and almost at the same time [as the sow became a hound] a remarkable event occurred. A certain knight, name Gilbert, surname Hagurnell, after a long and unremitting anguish, which lasted three years, and the most severe pains as of a woman in labour, at length gave birth to a calf, and event which was witnessed by a great crowd of onlookers. Perhaps it was a portent of some unusual calamity yet to come. It was more probably a punishment exacted for some unnatural act of vice.[liv]
In isolation, the knight's difficult labor and strange progeny is yet another wonder offered for the reader's consumption, only slightly more remarkable than Saint Patrick's horn and the pig that thinks it is a dog. When a similar birth occurs in Ireland, the "man-calf" [vitulum virilem] of Glendalough born ex coitu viri cum vacca, the prodigy seems almost dull, so usual does "unnatural vice" (nefandi criminis) seem there. Yet the story is not set across the sea in Hibernia but at the heart of Norman Wales. It involves not some nameless Irish native who can stand in for the entirety of his race but a knight whose name declares him an alien to the land to which his passion attaches him. Unlike the disidentification that motivates the narration of Irish minglings of human and beast, joinings supposed to demonstrate the utter animality of that race, this unnatural coupling is fraught with undecidability. It seems that, looking back on his Welsh work around 1197, Gerald is unable to muster the same confidence that had propelled the Topography of Ireland. During this major revision of the Journey, Gerald began to land-mine his text, introducing ambiguities that undermine the unconflicted prose of his earlier days. Gerald, it seems, has taken the vocabulary of race that he developed for the alienation of Ireland and transfered its animal obsessions to his own place of origin.
The story Gerald added to the Journey in 1197 is in fact an intriguing meditation on gemina natura, dual race. Gilbert, the bull, and their unexpected progeny are introduced, after all, by an episode that declares that the power and meaning of a body derives from the history and context into which it is born (a wild sow suckled by a domesticated hound becomes a composite body, physically porcine while functionally canine; the flow of breast milk overcodes the biologically innate with the culturally contingent). The man-bull-calf narrative in turn precedes a second story of interspecies procreation: in the ancient past, a mare belonging to Saint Illtyd mates with a stag and gives birth to creature with a horse's head and deer's haunches. These suggestive marvels are immediately followed by a sexualized account of the mixed racial past of Brecknock, the Welsh county in which they occur. Bernard de Neufmarché, primus Normannorum in the area, seized the land from its inhabitants and married a Welsh woman named Nesta. Norman on its father's colonizing side and Welsh through its mother's indigenous blood, Brecknock is a racially hybrid space.[lv]
Bernard's wife was named after her mother, the daughter of prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. She also, as it turns out, possesses a second name, for she is called Agnes by the English (materno Nestam vocavere, quam et Angli vertendo Anneis vocavere). As her bilingual nomination suggests, Nesta/Agnes is the focus of a great deal of racial ambivalence in Gerald's narrative. After her son Mahel mutilates the knight with whom she is having an extramarital affair, she wrongly denounces him to Henry I as the offspring of her disgraced lover. The king happily disinherits Mahel and bestows Bernard's land on Milo FitzWalter, a royal relation. This Milo has five sons, including one named Mahel, but each dies upon succeeding to Brecknock.[lvi] Milo FitzWalter's inability to found a family which can hold the land through history is underscored by Gerald, who punctuates the episode by finally having King Henry admit to Milo that, even though England occupies Wales for the time being to "commit acts of violence and injustice" against its people, he knows full well that it is the Welsh "who are the rightful heirs" (1.2).[lvii] Brecknock's destiny, Henry and Gerald together declare, is a Welsh future.
But not a pure Welsh future. The sow-hound, the man and the bull who engendered a calf, the deer-horse of Saint Illtyd, Nest/Agnes, failures of inheritance in the Neufmarché and FitzWalter families, and the mixed racial heritage of Brecknock are bound by a logic of monstrous hybridity, condensed in the history of the land as a history of unresolved Norman/Welsh violence. Gerald is not telling a reductive or nostalgic story about the eradication of native purity by a colonialist regime. Indigenous culture has not simply been replaced by imported customs, language, modes of being. The Welsh March is already impure, and Gerald is a living embodiment of its complexity. The Journey through Wales explores how both Wales and England were changed when two bodies formed a third that carries with it something of both parents without fully being either. Mixed racial descent is disruptive because it arises when cultures meet in unprecedented, "unnatural" couplings. The offspring of a knight like Gilbert Hagurnell who mixes his flesh with native animals (and it is useful to keep in mind here that the Welsh were consistently depicted by the Normans and English as a gens bestialis) perhaps suggests that race is not necessarily an arrest into some dwindled stability, but an opening up of contradiction-riddled possibility. The knight pregnant with a calf through his alliance with a bull transforms a male into a maternal form, a human into an interspecies hybrid. The offspring of the mare and stag is simultaneously both and neither of its parents, a body that spectacularly displays its constitutive difference without resolving them. When translated into English Agnes, Nesta forgets her Welsh descent, forgets that her son is impure but perfectly legitimate. The price of her forgetting is to be rebuked into meaninglessness by history: her own story ends abruptly when she disowns her son. The English Mahel who replaces the Welsh-Norman Mahel dies when a rock strikes him on the head at Bronllys Castle, poetic justice accomplished by the land itself.
Gerald's sympathy is clearly reserved for the Mahel of mixed blood, a man who like Gerald himself was the son of a redoubtable Norman knight and a royal Welsh grandmother named Nesta. Gerald's father was William de Barri, his mother Angharad, (whose mother was in turn Nesta, the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of South Wales).[lviii] Conflicting possibilities coursed through Gerald's mongrel blood: "Cambro-Norman" denizen of the Welsh March; Parisian intellectual with deeply secular as well as theological interests; catologuer of the world's wonders; theorist of racial difference; historian of conquest; child of violence; cousin to Welsh princes; aspiring archbishop of an independent Welsh see; royal servant of the Angevin empire; reform-minded ecclesiastic with variable allegiances to England, Wales, Rome, Jerusalem. It seems that whenever I try to contain Gerald's identity in a sentence, my syntax bloats, adjectives and nouns proliferate. Gerald was no better at finding a succinct way to contain his multipartite, multiparoused self. To take the words that he puts in the mouths of his uncles in Ireland, he was duplex and geminus, "doubled" and "twin-born." Trained in classical Latin, Gerald must have known that his beloved poet Ovid had used the adjective geminus to describe the blood of Cecrops, half-Egyptian and half-Greek. He must also have remebered that Ovid used the same adjective to describe the centaur Chiron, half a man and half a horse, indeterminate monster. Gerald was enthralled by such creatures, strange beings who find that they cannot synthesize the differences that they incorporate. It would not be far wrong to label such figures with racialized English nouns like "hybrids," "mixed bloods," "crossbreeds," but it is perhaps better to employ the word familiar to Gerald for such impure, heterogeneous beings: mixta, a Latin substantive derived from the verb miscere ("to conjoin, intermarry, copulate, confound, disturb"). Mixta technically describe paradoxical hybrids and "coincidences of opposites" like stag-mares, man-cows, and other composite monsters.[lix] Yet even Guaidan the grass-eating Welshman is something of a mixta, combining as he does the image of the feral Welsh with the possibility of a body smarter and more civilized than that possessed by the invaders. Mixta as "conjoined things" are sly civility incarnate, bodies suspended between categories, confounding monsters.
Gilbert Hagurnell and the baby bull that he bore after three years of labor and an unspecified duration of "unnatural vice" figure the boundary-smashing work of medieval race, especially when its flow is propelled by the energy of impure blood. Mixta bridge in their proliferation and in their flesh disparate cultures, geographies, and temporalities, resisting assimilation into some placid or predictable totality. They truly embody what the postcolonial critic Robert Young has called the "incommensurable, competing histories forced together in unnatural unions by colonialism."[lx]
William Rufus, second Norman king of England, dreamt of building a bridge of ships to Ireland. In 1097 William penetrated far enough into Wales to glimpse the coast of Hibernia and grandly announced: "I will collect a fleet together from my own kingdom and with it make a bridge, so that I can conquer that country" (Itinerarium 2.1).[lxi] This transmarinal architecture, Gerald of Wales claims, was to have been erected near St. David's, that presumed center of Welsh ecclesiastical independence. As the conduit for an invasion force, William's bridge tacitly acknowledges that Wales having been royally traversed, Ireland will become the next frontier.
William's naval bridge never materialized. Gerald explains its incompletion by having Murchard, Irish Prince of Leinster, declare that since William did not qualify his decree with "If God wills," the people of Ireland need not fear that such an arrogant undertaking will come to fruition. From the mouth of a foreigner comes the rebuke that William does not operate properly within the Christian system of meaning, and therefore that his language has no efficacy. The rebuke has a doubled sting in that the Irish, like the Welsh, were held to be notoriously deficient Christians, barely cognizant of the universal laws of their creed. Had not Pope Alexander III himself said as much when he authorized the English invasion of the island?[lxii]
William's impossible architecture serves as a useful metaphor for the location of Gerald's Welsh March: an intermediate zone that is not fully other, like barbarous Ireland, nor exactly familiar, like those civil lands already domesticated into England. Perhaps taking their cue from Caesar, Tacitus, and Bede, contemporary historians have repeatedly described medieval Wales as a frontier, a term connoting an incipient space awaiting development.[lxiii] To label a land a frontier is to assume a colonizer's point of view, for a frontier is an expansion's edge, a region where a self-declared advanced culture imagines that it meets a more primitive world, instigating the process of making that land and its people learn both their backwardness, their marginality. When "frontier" is invoked, the center of the world is assumed to be elsewhere. Yet William's bridge to Ireland moves southern Wales behind the line of the frontier without assimilating it to his England. The Welsh March thereby becomes a borderlands, a middle space. By placing the proposed naval bridge at St. David's, moreover, Gerald illustrates how a multiplicity of differences circulate through such uncertain regions. Discourses germane to Latin Christianity, Norman-English colonialism, the ambitions of the Marcher lords, and the desires of the native Welsh hybridize at Gerald's St. David's, for the area is for him not a regional but a world center. Throughout his work Gerald argues that St David's was the ancient seat of the archbishopric of Wales, a place owing no allegiance to English Canterbury but direct, unmediated obedience to Rome. The English rightly saw in this assertion not just defiance, but the dangerous possibility of Welsh ecclesiastical independence.
Gloria Anzaldúa describes the borderland as "a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary … in a constant state of transition."[lxiv] Borderlands, she writes, foster "shifting and multiple identity and integrity," since they are home to multiple and "bastard" languages. As a place of mestizaje, of new and impure hybrids, the borderlands are traversed by los atravesados, "the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed … those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the 'normal.'"[lxv] Anzaldúa is writing as a conflicted product of numerous cultural forces, as a lesbian feminist with a difficult relationship to her Chicana (white-Mexican-Indian) origin. The cultura mestiza that she articulates is a queer composite of races, religions, histories, sexualities, and species. Just like Wales at St. David's, Wales alongside that imaginary colonial bridge.[lxvi]
Anzaldúa figures her "new mestiza" as part human, part serpent, a body that spectacularly displays its differences without pretending they can be domesticated into a unified form.[lxvii] The Anzaldúan borderlands are analogous to Gerald's vision of a middle land replete with mixta, "composites." Although they lack the investment of heroism that Anzaldúa gives to her joyfully contradictory and ambivalent raza mestiza and to her patron monsters (the Shadow Beast, the serpent-goddesses), Gerald's mixta likewise embody the intimate otherness produced when cultures have crossbred: "hybrid progeny, a mutable, more malleable species … an 'alien' consciousness" (Borderlands / La Frontera 77). For Gerald, this newness enters the world invested with desire, anxiety, disgust, passion, trepidation – and, when a figure for a wider process of cultural crossfertilization, a certain amount of promise.
The March was neither Norman nor Welsh, but an uneasy composite of the two, a place where hybrid bodies were revealed through hybrid names (Henri ap Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, Meilir fitz Henry, Maredudd son of Robert fitzStephen, Gwenllian Berkerolles, John ap Gwilym Gunter, Angharad de Barri).[lxviii] Linguistically, architecturally, and culturally, the March was a mixed form, a bridge conjoining rather than assimilating differences. Here a King of England might dream of starting an invasion of Ireland, as if the land he stood upon were already safely his; but here also a royal messenger might be forced to eat, seal and all, a letter that displeased the baron to whom it was addressed.[lxix] In the words of the foremost scholar of the Welsh March, it was a geographically, chronologically, and racially diverse place whose history "seems to disintegrate into plurality and defy the analytical categories of the historian."[lxx] "Gerald of Wales" could in fact take the place of "the Welsh March" in the preceding sentences. Gerald is exactly that middle body through which passes pura Wallia, Marchia Wallie, Normannitas, conflicting allegiances to church and world and natio, a bridge to the new frontier of Ireland.
Gerald's first name is unambiguously Norman.[lxxi] He could have followed it with a francophone toponym like "de Barri," as his father and grandfather had done, in order to emphasize an origin in a geographic elsewhere (Barri is an island off the Glamorganshire coast). Gerald even had a troublesome nephew who called himself Giraldus de Barri and succeeded to his archdeaconry in Brecon. Instead Gerald emphasized his nativity in Wales by styling himself Cambrensis. That he chose this particular designator emphasizes his awareness that he inhabited a medial position where established terms fail. Gerald always describes the people from which he comes not as Wallenses ("foreigners," the English nomination), not as Britones (what the people called themselves, in reference to a mythically pure origin), but as Kambrenses, an etymologically impure attempt to designate a compound identity (natura gemina) not easily reducible to binaristic racial thinking.[lxxii]
Late in the Journey through Wales Gerald arrives in the Marcher settlement of Chester, a settlement at the border between Wales and England. This town incarnates the fluctuating and unfinished state of the subjugation of Wales, for its castle is built at a river that moves every year. When the fords of the River Dee incline toward England, it will be a good year for conquest; when the fords move toward the Welsh side of this fluvial division between the countries, Wales will have the upper hand (2.11). Chester seems to embody the fluid interspaces between England and Wales. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Gerald reveals two historical traumas have been interred but not laid to rest here. The bodies of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and King Harold of England are, he asserts, buried within Chester's limits. Harold is of course the last English king, displaced by William the Conqueror – the very regent who built Chester's castle during his campaign of 1069-1070, when he waged brutal war against the Welsh.[lxxiii] Germany's Henry V was married to Matilda, daughter and designated heir of Henry I. After a bloody civil war, Matilda's son (by her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou) eventually became Henry II of England. The cadavers of these two monarchs, each of whom is intimately connected to a crisis of succession, each of whom engendered violence over national identifications and allegiances , remind that Britain's history is impure, perennially unsettled.
These symbolically laden dead kings are interred at the very border where the Norman colonization of Wales began. It seems natural, then, that their appearance should be followed by stories about the generation in Chester of newly hybrid bodies (Journey 2.11).[lxxiv] The first of these mixta is a deer-cow, an animal that displays domesticity and untamed wildness in different sections of its body. Next come monkey-puppies, "ape-like in the front but more like a dog behind." The deer-cow, born in Chester "in our own days," is inserted verbatim into the Journey through Wales from its source, Gerald's Topgraphia Hibernica (2.55), where it forms an analogue to the semibos vir and semivor bos. The ape-dogs meanwhile meet the same undeserved fate as Maurice's Ox Man. They are murdered by a "country bumpkin" who fails to understand that their newness is a source of wonder rather than disgust. A third strange body belongs to a woman, likewise of "our own lifetime," who was born without hands. This limblessness is (rather too literally) no impediment to her becoming a seamstress, for she adapts her sinewy legs and slender toes to accomplish those tasks a "proper" body assigns only to its hands. Gerald finds her a wonder, it seems, because in her corporeal plasticity she proves a point that he has been making throughout the Journey through Wales: human flesh is infinitely malleable, always possessed of marvelous possibility, always becoming something that cannot be anticipated in advance.
Gerald calls these creatures of Chester deformes biformis naturae formas -- "deformed and hybrid bodies" in Thorpe's translation, but more literally (and playfully) "deformed forms of biform nature." Horace famously used the adjective biformis to describe the poet, half-man and half-swan (Odes 2.20.3). Perhaps for Gerald biformis natura evokes his own identity as poet of the world's impurities. Like gemina natura, biformis was also used classically to designate centaurs, Scylla, and the Minotaur. The border town of Chester, built at a river that moves its fords as it changes its allegiances, seems intimately connected through its "deformed biform forms" to Gilbert Hagurnell and his bulls in Brecknockshire, to the unfortunate Ox Man of an Ireland that no longer seems distant.
The composite monsters of Chester reveal that contested origins and compound identities cannot be buried along with the bones of Harold and Henry, corpses revivified by the turbulent histories their appearance invokes. That the edge of Wales should be the resting place of such problematic monarchs indicates that just as gemina natura engenders no secure future, it erodes the seeming stability the past.
What Gerald Was Not (Disidentifications)
Although he may at times have felt great uncertainty about who he was, Gerald could nonetheless confidently declare what he was not. Gerald's celibate clerical identity, steeped in traditions of misogyny, spurred one of the many disidentifications he performed.[lxxv] Women and their bodies are triggers for Gerald's worst invective.[lxxvi] A soothsayer named Meilye gains his unholy power by having sex with a beautiful woman who turns out to be "a hairy creature, rough and shaggy, and, indeed, repulsive beyond words" (formam quandam villosam, hispidam et hirsutam, adeoque enormiter deformem, Itinerarium 1.5). The true form of the creature drives Meilye insane, and he is only partially cured by the ministrations of saintly men at St. David's. Gerald is almost incapable of representing women outside of terms that make them wearily similar to Meilye's succubus. When the adulteress Nesta betrays her son Mahel, for example, she deviates "not one whit from her womanly nature" (mulier muliebri non degenerans a natura, Itinerarium 1.2). In Ireland, unlike Wales, tales of interspecies hybrids immediately give rise to anecdotes about women happily abandoning themselves to sex with animals. When a goat and a lion copulate with women, both partners in the act are, in Gerald's estimation, beasts worthy of death (O utramque bestiam turpi morte dignissimam!) Yet for all his stated revulsion, Gerald cannot resist visualizing such scenes at length, revealing a deep and enduring fascination behind his disgust. A version of the Topographia Hibernica not far removed from Gerald's original (MS National Library of Ireland 700) even illustrates in lurid detail a passionate kiss between each animal and his lover.[lxxvii]
Gerald's monsterization of women perhaps helped him to feel secure in his sexual identity. His denigration of what he held to be inferior and subordinate races, on the other hand, no doubt alleviated some of the uncertainty he felt about his mixed constitution. Holding the Irish in low regard justified the conquest of their island and buttressed Marcher identity, giving them an unambiguously alien race to assert their identity against. The Welsh presented more complexities, especially as later in life Gerald ceased to define them so curtly as a gens barbara and began to identify with his own Cambrian blood. The Anglo-Saxon English were, like the Irish, easy for Gerald to detest. Having been quickly beaten into subject status by the Normans a century earlier, they were perhaps an easy mark. Yet even the Normans could earn Gerald's venom, especially as he was repeatedly denied the see of St David's that he so coveted. By the time he was bringing his manual On the Instruction of Princes to a close, he was dismissing the conquest of England as the work of "Norman tyrants" who took possession of the island "not by natural descent or legitimately, but, as it were, by a reversed order of things [per hysteron proteron]" (27). He also tells the story of a Norman bishop "of our own times who was like a monster with many heads" (Jewel of the Church 2.36). Gerald is probably referring to his inveterate enemy Hubert Walter, whose "many heads" included justiciar, chancellor, and papal legate. Having inherited through his Norman blood both arrogance and verbosity, says Gerald, Hubert gave sermons that demeaned his English audiences:
He would attack the very English to whom he was speaking for their inborn hatred of Normans and would say: 'In former times the English were outstanding both for armies and for learning, but now, because of wantonness and drunkenness, they excel in neither.' He would then add what I have several times heard myself ... 'Sed ubi evanuit, ubi migravit utraque gloria?' ... He was considered a great man because he was long-winded and boldly loquacious, as are all Normans![lxxviii]
Considering that Bishop Hubert was not invested with legatine powers until 1195, this episode not only records Gerald's ability to shift his racial allegiances as his life progressed, but also indicates a very late instance of Norman antipathy toward the native English (and vice versa, at least in Hubert's accusation).
Not every detested race inhabited the British Isles. The Topgraphia Hibernica makes the daring rhetorical move of offering Ireland as an alternative to the beckoning wealth of the East, a nearby place of wonder awaiting its own kind of crusade (Topographia 1.27-32). Stealing some lines from Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald even imagines that Ireland was once conquered by Africans under Gurmundus, giving the island an oriental patina (Topographia 3.112-14). By the time Gerald turned to the Journey Through Wales, however, figurative crusade had been abandoned for a literal one. This text after all records the mission that Gerald and Baldwin of Canterbury undertook to recruit soldiers and raise funds for the Third Crusade, the first expedition to the Holy Land to really capture the imagination of the British Isles. The cleric and the archbishop were participating in the creation of a homogenous Christian community capable of transcending national, regional, and even sectarian differences.[lxxix] At the same time, however, their trip through Wales achieved a variety of local political objectives. Baldwin's progress ensured that the church in Wales was publicly acceding to the power of Canterbury – a fact that Gerald must have found particularly galling, since he was a vocal proponent of an independent Welsh see at St. David's.[lxxx] Once Welsh rulers and nobles (many of whom were Gerald's relatives) were transformed into crucesignati, they were forced to champion Henry II's crusade, and therefore more deeply under royal control.[lxxxi] The distant struggle over the Levant proved a useful distraction from nationalistic struggles closer to home, and even helped to empty Wales of men who were clearly a cause of domestic troubles (including, in Gerald's words, "robbers, highwaymen and murderers"). At the same time, the religious devotion that the crusades inspired should not be downplayed. About three thousand men were recruited from Wales as a result of Gerald and Baldwin's preaching. The elderly archbishop himself died surrounded by "desolation and despair" at the siege of Acre in 1190 (Journey 2.14).
What the denigrated Irish and native English were to his insecure racial identity, Muslims were to Gerald's sense of himself as a member of a universal Christianity. As in the past, attendant upon the preaching of the Third Crusade was the monsterization of non-Christians. Crusading polemic united a fractured West by offering a point of transnational identification, placing an exorbitant enemy at the heart of the Holy Land. Such agitprop fostered a Christianity capable of the most unspeakable violence to Muslims, pagans and Jews. Characterized by dark skin, idolatry, and an innate ardor for war, the Saracen is the most familiar product of this demonizing process. Depicted as eviscerating, impaling, even forcefully circumcising Christians, the Saracen was without doubt the medieval West's most vigorous, most dreaded, most relentlessly fantasized monster. Yet because outside of Iberia Muslims did not live among western Christians, the Saracen was of limited efficacy for galvanizing religious unity close to home. Not surprisingly, crusading fervor was almost invariably accompanied by violence against Jews, religious and racial outsiders who did in fact cohabitate with the Christians in England, Germany, France.
Gerald composed and revised his numerous works in the aftermath of lethal violence against Jews in England and France. He never refers to these events. True, Gerald had spent his childhood in an area of Britain lacking permanent Jewish settlements, but as soon as he stepped foot in cities like London, Lincoln, and Paris he witnessed thriving Jewish communities. The massacre at Clifford's Tower, the conflagration of Jewish domiciles in Lynn and Norwich, the murder of Jews at the coronation of Richard all took place while Gerald was in England, in nearby Lincoln. These bloody episodes seem not to have disturbed him much, for they are wholly absent from his otherwise capacious works. Yet it would not be true to say that there are no Jews in Gerald's writings. The Journey Through Wales contains an anecdote in which the philospher Peter Abelard is challenged by a Jew to explain why lightning so often sets fire to churches, damaging crosses and other sacred objects. Peter offers a reply that makes it clear what both he and Gerald think of Jews: "No one ever saw lightning hit a public lavatory, or even heard of such a thing: by the same token it never falls on any of your Jewish synagogues" (1.12).[lxxxii] His History and Topography of Ireland relates how a marvellous goose is spontaneously generated from barnacles (1.12). Gerald seizes the opportunity to address a hypothetical Jew: "Pause, unhappy Jew! Pause – even if it be late ... Blush, wretch, blush!" Barnacle geese, he argues, are all the proof required that Jesus could be born of a woman without the assistance of a man, and Jews are of "obstinate will" because they will not believe. The apostrophe from Ireland to the unnamed stubborn Jew takes on a special resonance when it is recalled that Josce of Gloucester, a Jew, financed Richard Strongbow's expedition to Ireland in 1170.[lxxxiii]
Gerald's Gemma ecclesiastica (Gem of the Church), a book of spiritual instruction focused on canon and moral law, features two vivid episodes of punished Jews not found in any other source. Both these narratives are fascinated by the relation between inimical Jews and the flow of Christian blood. In a story that he claims to have taken from St Basil but which does not in fact seem to have a source there, a Jew rents his lodgings in Antioch to a Christian. When he eventually returns to his house and hosts a feast, one of his guests notices that a crucifix has been painted upon the wall by the former tenant. The Jews beat their host soundly for allowing the image to remain, then drag him to a judge and demand that he be put to death. The dinner guests remaining at the house poke a lance at the image, "just as they had done to Christ" (Jewel of the Church 1.30). The painting yields to the weapon as if it were flesh. Real blood and water gush from the wound. The Jews dab these liquids upon themselves and are healed of various ailments. Having seen the Passion of Christ enacted in the dining room, having become unwitting participants in this history made real, the Jews decide that they will not make the same mistake as their forefathers: they convert to Christianity en masse. A similar episode follows in which a Jew in Rome hurls a rock at portrait of Christ. "Blood immediately poured out in such an abundant flow," Gerald writes, that it covered the church floor (Jewel of the Church 1.31). Although some Jews who hear about the incident convert, the stone thrower himself dies instantly, "struck with a terrible agony."
Jews, the Christian body in peril, an unstinting efflux of blood. These two episodes from Gerald's late work bring together the components for solving a problem Gerald himself was never able to surmount: how, in the face of impurity and in the wake of historical trauma, to imagine that divided and heterogeneous peoples constitute a community. Gerald even hints at the resolution itself, not in the Jews who convert to Christianity and vanish, but in the blasphemous Jew who hurls his rock at the church and injures the body of Christ. In this malevolent figure who unleashes a flow of sacred blood and pays for the violence with his own life lay the future of English community.
[i] This fabulation has no direct source in Gerald's writing, other than his fascination with the lines quoted from Ovid and a deep regard for his own dreams. See especially Gerald's ominous vision of the corpse of Henry II in the De Principis Instructione and the dream of a bloody attack on heaven that causes him to fear he is losing his mind, Expugnatio Hibernica 2.30 (repeated in De Principis Instructione).
[ii] "The British Past and the Welsh Future" 62.
[iii] See especially John Gillingham's schematic outline in The English in the Twelfth Century 154-56; Michael Richter, "Giraldus Cambrenisis" 3.1; and, to a lesser extent, Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales.
[iv] Like the English adjective "pure," pura in medieval Latin carries with it connotations of cleanliness, of being unadulterated, and also of sexual integrity, as in "unblemished" or "chaste." Pura Wallia marks the lost dream of the Cambro-Normans to conquer all of Wales (a loss fully approved of by Henry II, who viewed the power of the Marchers with growing suspicion, especially after the campaign in Ireland). Once Henry II reached an accord with the Welsh princelings (1171-72), native Welsh kingdoms such as Deheubarth regained some of their former vigor and the March became more suspended middle than forward-pushing frontier (Davies 53-55, 271-76, 290-91). On the ambiguities of the geographical designation "Wales" as a whole and the fluctuations of its border before 1300, see Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 4-13.
[v] See the Brut entry for 1098 and Davies' comments in The First English Empire that the chronicle reveals "an awareness that the world was being turned upside-down" (5).
[vi]The Normans were, of course, only continuing a long tradition of violence against Wales begun in the mid seventh century by the English, first in Mercia and then Wessex (both of which mixed strategic alliance with forced subjugation). In addition to the writings of Gerald of Wales, my generalizations about medieval Wales are based on the following sources: Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales; A. D. Carr, Medieval Wales; R. R. Davies, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales; Conquest, Coexistence and Change; Domination and Conquest; The Age of Conquest; Wendy Davies, Wales in the Early Middle Ages; Ralph A. Griffiths, Conquerors and Conquered in Medieval Wales; John Edward Lloyd, A History of Wales From the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest; Lynn H. Nelson, The Normans in South Wales; David Walker, Medieval Wales.
[vii] See Davies, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales 304-28, 341-7; Age of Conquest 97-100, 371-3, 421; and Domination and Conquest 88-89. Hugh M. Thomas also writes of "ethnic segregation" in Wales in The English and the Normans 165.
[viii] The First English Empire 11. Davies concludes, "Empire-builders are distressed by challenges to their right to build empires."
[ix] The native Welsh, that is, began to recognize themselves as a solidarity only after they saw themselves from within the collective terms thrust upon them by their antagonists. See especially Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 4-13. As Michael Richter has observed, before the twelfth century the Welsh were far more intimately tied with the Irish than the Normans. Norman conquest resulted in a profound reorientation: gradually [the Welsh] came to know each other as fellow-countrymen by being fellow sufferers" ("National Consciousness in Medieval Wales" 38).
[x] Cf. R. R. Davies: "To outsiders Wales was a land of exclusive racial groups: French (Norman), English, and Welsh. To the men of the March such a confident simplification was a distortion ... The ingredients of the making of a 'middle nation' – a group caught between, and sitting astride, the normal categorizations of race – were being assembled in parts of Norman Wales" (Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 103).
[xi] R. R. Davies stresses the fluidity of both Wales itself and of the March in Conquest, Coexistence and Change, pointing out that the March was capable of swallowing parts of England and assimilating them into itself, "out of the ambit of English fiscal and judicial administration" (6). Earlier in his career Davies argued that the "March of Wales" is a rather misleading designation, given the area's mutability: "There was not so much a March as marches," in competition and flux ("Kings, Lords and Liberties" 45).
[xii] As R. R. Davies points out, the equality of the law of the March to Welsh and English law is acknowledged in Magna Carter (Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 285).
[xiii] The two passages are quoted and Gerald's dual race given a thoughtful reading in Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales 17-20. Cf. the complaint of the burgesses of Llan-faes that "in Wales they were regarded as Englishmen and in England as Welshman": Rees Davies, "Race Relations in Post-Conquest Wales" 44. Interestingly, Gerald also relates that he was marked as English while studying in Paris. At the birth of the future king Philip, a woman singles Gerald and hiscompanions out for some invective against their king and country (On the Instruction of Princes 3.25), a sentiment that Gerald would find himself in agreement with later in life when his hopes turned to the Capetian kings.
[xiv] It is interesting to note that Gerald uses similar language in the Expugnatio's introductory address to Richard, about to become king of England, but here the dual nature refers to every human's split between secular and heavenly demands (Nos ipsos itaque duplici natura, temporali scilicet et eterna compactos, "As we ourselves are compounded of a two-fold nature, that is, temporal and eternal …").
[xv] O gens! O genus! gemina natura a Troianis animositatem, a Gallis armorum usum originaliter trahens. Gerald then acknowledges the suspicion under which the Marcher genus was held by the English court, disingenuously attributing the mistrust to their sheer numbers and inborn courage (O genus! O gens! Tam generis numerositate quam et innata strenuitate semper suspecta, "What a breed, what a noble stock, always under suspicion because of its numbers and its innate courage"). The lines that follow, however, hint at the true reason Henry saw the Marchers as such a threat (O genus! O gens! Que ad regni cuiuslibet expugnacionem per se sufficeret, si non tantam invidens illis strenuitatem semper in alta livor ab alto descendisset, "What a breed, what a noble stock, a stock which unaided would have been equal to the conquest of any kingdom had not envy, begrudging them their great valour, descended from on high into the depths"). The regni cuiuslibet is, like the fitzGeralds, of a dual nature: they could have conquered Ireland, and thus empowered they might have set their sights on a kingdom closer to home.
[xvi] The same diffidence is seen in Gerald's use of the Latinate Cambrensis to describe himself, since Kambria was (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth) the original word for Wales (Historia Regum Bitannie 23).
[xvii] It might seem that Gerald also refers to his Norman heritage rather obliquely through the same formula, since he calls that race Galli rather than Normanni. Yet by Gerald's day Normanni typically referred to Normans fresh from Normandy; Galli was sometimes used even in the early days of Norman England to designate the Normans, though Franci was more typical. When Gerald composes his Descriptio Kambriae, a work written at a time in his life when he was more sympathetic to the Welsh, he voices his dual heritage as derived (duximus) from both people (utraque gente), the English (Anglis) and the Welsh (Kambros); "English" is of course what the Normans in England had long been calling themselves, while "Cambrians" is Gerald's term. See Gerald's justification for "How the welsh can best fight back and keep up the resistance" in Descriptio Kambriae 2.10.
[xviii] "Gens in Kambrie marchia nutrita" is Gerald's description of the Marchers as he reasons which race is best suited to fighting the Irish (Expugnatio 2.38). Since his people were formed in conditions of guerilla and sylvan warfare similar to what Ireland offers, he reasons, they are superior to the Norman and English fighters whose battles inevitably take place on fields and open country.
[xix] I do not mean to reduce what was in fact a mulifarious and prolonged conquest into so simple a reaction to racial panic, I simply wish to suggest the pivotal role that it played. It is useful to bear in mind that the Marcher lords lost vast amounts of their Welsh territories back to native princes during the turbulence of Stephen's reign. When Henry II ascended the throne in 1154, it became quickly evident to the Marchers that their power was going to be curtailed by a monarch eager to forge his own alliances with the Welsh princes, and that much of the Marcher territory lost to these princes would not be regained. No surprise, then, that another frontier would be sought -- but Henry realized the same thing and acted quickly to diminish their Irish power. For an excellent overview of the conflict between the Marchers and the English crown, as well as the identity crisis it provoked, see Rhonda Knight, "Werewolves, Monsters, and Miracles" 58-61.
[xx] Nest's life and her complicated family are lucidly explicated by Gwenn Meredith in "Henry I's Concubines" 16-19.
[xxi] The line from the Expugnatio Hibernica quoted in this sentence is taken from Gerald's opening address to Count Richard, about to be crowned King Richard, but its negative characterization of the Irish is endemic to the entirety of this work as well as to the Topographia.
[xxii] "Unnatural History" 33. Cain also captures the text's spirit of experiment and play well, even if he does not dwell upon it: "Positioned by Gerald at the edge of the world, Ireland has become a playground of sorts where Nature finally gets to relax and engage in some recreational experimentation with all kinds of novel and unconventional forms" (33).
[xxiii] "Sex and the Irish Nation" 169.
[xxiv] Rhonda Knight posits a similar interpretation, seeing in the corporeal changeability that inheres in the lycanthropy a voicing of the Marcher fears of losing their own identities and becoming Irish ("Werewolves, Monsters and Miracles" 73).
[xxv] Cf. the Journey Through Wales, where Gerald writes that the tongue of a wolf can cause death by infecting open wounds with its poisonous saliva (1.7).
[xxvi] Gerald's Latin is interesting here in that it interweaves Irish beards [barbis] with their supreme barbarity [barbarissimi] in a rhetorical frenzy that O'Meara's translation does not capture well: "Gens igitur haec gens barbara, et vere barbara. Quia non tantum barbaro vestium ritu, verum etiam comis et barbis luxuriantibus, iuxta modernas novitates, incultissima; et omnes eorum mores barbarissimi sunt."
[xxvii] In fact the king is said only to "advance bestially" on the mare (bestialiter accedens), but the implication is clear. As David Rollo points out, the same Latin phrase is used to describe the copulation of a goat and woman in 2.56 ("Gerald of Wales' Topographia Hibernica" 182). James Cain observes that the episode ensures that the reader knows that bestiality "fully penetrates all ranks of [Irish] society: from royalty to clergy to the common people in general" ("Unnatural History" 39).
[xxviii] The Christianization of England included persuading its Germanic peoples to no longer consume horses as meat, except under extenuating circumstances. See Robert Bartlett, England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 667.
[xxix] R. R. Davies, The First English Empire 125.
[xxx] The special prominence accorded the episode has been well argued by James Cain, "Unnatural History," who points out its position at the center of the text, 36.
[xxxi] "Parum enim ante adventum Anglorum in insulam, ex coitu viri cum vacca, quo vito praecipue gens ista laborat, in montanis de Glindalachan vitulum virilem bos edidit. Ut credere valeas semibovemque virum semivirumque bovem iterum fuisse progenitum."
[xxxii] "Unnatural History" 37.
[xxxiii] "Circa hec tempora et parum ante visus est apud Guikingelo vir prodigiosus, in vacca quippe, vicio gentis illius, a viro progenitus, bovinas in humano corpore preferens extremitates. Sicut Topographia describit." (Expugantio 2.15).
[xxxiv] This is not to imply that Gerald does not betray occasional complexity in his depiction of the Marchers' interactions with the Irish – they had, after all, come to the island at the invitation of an Irish king, a man fitzStephen calls "an honourable man" (virum illustrem, Expugnatio 1.9). The Expugnatio in general reveals a more nuanced view of the conquest, complaining (for example) that the new men brought to Ireland by the Angevins alienated former Irish allies of the Marchers by treating them with contempt, pulling on their beards and taking their lands (Expugnatio 2.35). Rollo treats this theme well in "Gerald of Wales' Topographia Hibernica" 187-88.
[xxxv] A point dramatically brought home when Gerald accidentally writes Kambrie for Hibernie in describing the submission of the kings of Ireland to Henry; see the rubric to Expugnatio 1.30.
[xxxvi] Itinerarium Kambriae (Journey Through Wales) Book I volume 10; v. 6 in J. S. Brewer, J. F. Dimock, and G. F. Warner (eds.), Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, 8 vols., Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores ["Rolls Series"] 21 (London, 1861-91); tr. Lewis Thorpe, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales (London: Penguin Books, 1978), quotation from 140. Further citations of the Itinerarium acknowledged by book and chapter number. Cantref Mawr [Cantrefmaur] is weighted with so much history for Gerald that his pen "quivers" [noster explicare stilus abhorruit]. Nearby are Roman ruins, reminders of an ancient colonization. The place itself had been a "safe haven" for the Welsh, since its forests are impenetrable, but here the king's troops exacted "terrible vengeance" on the indigenous population (including mass decapitations) after a battle in 1136 (on these events see Gesta Stephani 1.8-11). This colonialist trauma experienced in Gerald's body as he inscribes the location's history is clearly meant to be kept in mind as the Guaidan episode is narrated.
[xxxvii] Patricia Ingham suggests this deployment of Fernandez-Armesto's term in relation to the Welsh in Sovereign Fantasies, a book that admirably analyzes the postcolonial complexities I am treating here (see especially 11, 22-23, 39-40)
[xxxviii] The quotations are from Edmund Spenser and form the title of R. R. Davies' rich chapter on the barbarization of the non-English in The First English Empire, 113-141.
[xxxix] Letter 87, Letters of John of Salisbury I, 135. For John Welsh bestiality is also manifested in religious deficiency, for even though nominally Christian the race "despises the Word of Life" (aspernatur uerbum uitae).
[xl] Gesta Stephani 1.8. Chapters 8-11 of the first book of the Gesta are dedicated to the Welsh rebellion of 1136 and contain an extended narration of Welsh bestiality.
[xli] R. H. C. Davis has convincingly argued that the author of the narrative was likely Robert of Lewes, Bishop of Bath (1136-66). See the introduction to the Gesta Stephani xxxiv.
[xlii] Li Contes del Graal, 242-45.
[xliii] The Quest of the Holy Grail, trans. Pauline M. Matarasso, 115-16.
[xliv] See the essay "Sly Civility" in The Location of Culture, 93-101, as well as two further pieces on postcolonial mimicry: "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse" (85-92) and "Signs Taken for Wonders" (102-22).
[xlv] The Missionary Register, Church Missionary Society, September 1818, 374-75, quoted in Location of Culture, 99.
[xlvi] Speaking of the Itinerarium, Monika Otter writes perceptively that "while Gerald's loyalties ... are complicated, he accentuates the ambivalence and turns it into a recurrent theme" (Inventiones 131).
[xlvii] In fact the lines about "ejecting the entire population that lives there now, so that Wales can be colonized anew" because the "present inhabitants are virtually ungovernable" were cut from the text by Gerald as he revised the Descriptio in 1215; see Thorpe's introduction to his translation, 51-52. Such an excision fits well with Bartlett's argument that Gerald in the course of his life increasingly identified more with his Welsh blood, especially as he argued the case for St David's as an archepiscopal seat (Gerald of Wales 53-57). Monika Otter agrees, arguing that in the absence of English preferment he "rediscovers his Welshness" later in life (Inventiones 146).
[xlviii] "Nec alia, ut arbitror, gens quam haec Kambrica, aliave lingua, in die districti examinis coram Judice supremo, quicquid de ampliori contingat, pro hoc terrarum angulo respondebit." J. C. Crick argues that this speech is Gerald's rebuke of the Welsh dream of recovering rule of the entire island, a discrediting of those ambitions fostered by Geoffrey of Monmouth. In the old man's statement that only a small corner (angulus) will retain its Welsh identity is an "innovatory" attempt to circumscribe the Welsh desire to recover a lost hegemony, urging them to be satisfied with endurance under reduced circumstances ("British Past and the Welsh Future" 74). It seems to me, however, that by the time Gerald writes this section of the Description his self-identification has become conflicted enough that such a straightforward embrace of an imperialist point of view is unlikely.
[xlix] A good overview of Gerald's moments of self-revelation can be found in Yoko Wada, "Gerald on Gerald."
[l] Stephen G. Nichols, "Fission and Fusion" 32.
[li] Thorpe gives a thorough account of the dating of each version in his introduction, pp. 36-39.
[lii] On Gerald's associative, thematic principle see Otter, Inventiones 133.
[liii]Both man and beast, he says, are "greatly influenced by the dam whose milk they suck" (argumentum tam hominem, quam animal quodlibet, ab illa, cujus lacte nutritur, naturam contrahere). Gerald is fascinated by such stories of corporeal imprinting. In a later chapter, for example, he gives the example of a queen who "had a painting of a Negro in her bedroom" and, because she looked at it too much, gave birth to a black baby. Marie-Hélène Huet has studied this visual phenomenon and called it "maternal impression" (Monstrous Imagination), but for Gerald it is more accurately described as parental impression: to prove his point that both parents imprint the unborn child, he gives the example of a man who, during intercourse, thought about someone plagued by a nervous tic, and engendered a son afflicted by the same bodily contortion (Journey through Wales 2.7).
[liv] Although Thorpe's translation does not make this point clear, the gender of vitulus can only be masculine ("bull-calf").
[lv] In fact the hybridities go beyond those yoking the Welsh and the Normans. Bernard's wife Nest was the daughter of another Nest, the wife of Osbern fitz Richard, lord of Byton (Shropshire). This Nest was in turn the daughter of the renowned Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and Ealdgyth, daughter of Aelfgar, earl of Mercia. See the table compiled by A. J. Roderick in "Marriage and Politics in Wales" 5.
[lvi] More accurately, four of the five sons die upon succeeding to their inheritance; William perished before he could possess the land.
[lvii] "Quia licet gentibus illis per vires nostras magnas injuriam et violentiam irrogemus, nihilominus tamen in terris eisdem jus hereditarium habere noscuntur." One assumes that among these atrocities mentioned so obliquely is the Massacre of Abergavenny (1175), bloody retaliation against the Welsh at the hands of William de Braose, who inherited Brecknockshire after all of Milo FitzWalter's sons had died.
[lviii] Gerald recounts his autobiography in De Rebus a Se Gestis, Opera v.i.
[lix] The gloss "coincidence of opposites" for mixta is from Caroline Walker Bynum, Metamorphosis and Identity 43.
[lx] The quotation is Young's gloss on Deleuze and Guattari's desiring machines read through a postcolonial lens in Colonial Desire 174.
[lxi] "Ad terram istam expugnandam, ex navibus regni mei huc convocatis, pontem adhuc faciam."
[lxii] As Gerald puts it in the Expugnatio Hibernica, the English king "obtained from the then Pope Alexander III a privilege empowering him, with the pope's full consent, to rule over the English people and, as it was very ignorant of the rudiments of the faith, to instruct it in the laws and disciplines of the church according to the usage of the church in England" (2.5).
[lxiii] The "frontier thesis" was famously advanced by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 and, though much critiqued, continues to occupy the contemporary historiographic imaginary ("The Significance of the Frontier in American History," The Frontier in American History 1-38). For an overview of the influence of Turner on medieval studies, see the collection of essays edited by Robert Bartlett and Angus MacKay, Medieval Frontier Societies, especially Robert I. Burns, "The Significance of the Frontier in the Middle Ages." For a history of southern Wales heavily invested in the frontier myth, see Lynn H. Nelson, The Normans in South Wales. A good recent critique of the frontier which anticipates my argument here is Amy Kaplan, "'Left Alone with America': The Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture."
[lxiv] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera 3. For sensitive readings of Anzaldúa's work, see Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez, Border Visions: Mexican Cultures of the Southwest United States 216-221, and Robert McRuer, The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities 116-54.
[lxv] Quotations from "Preface" (unpaginated), 3, 5.
[lxvi] Indeed, "bridge" (puente) as that which connects both geographies and temporalities is one of Anzaldúa's poetic glosses for "mestiza," as in "Yo soy un puente tendido / del mundo gabacho al del mojado, / lo pasado me estirá pa' 'trás / y lo presente pa' 'delante" (3).
[lxvii] Cf. Robert McRuer: "Some overly celebratory understandings of queerness … tend to efface the ways in which identities and histories are structured in domination, so that some identities are immobilized while white, male, heterosexual power is able to travel anywhere with ease. Anzaldúa's work undermines this structural domination by insistently foregrounding 'queer mestiza' identity." For Anzaldúa, 'the border' and 'queerness' stand as figures for the failure of easy separation. Rather than establishing two discrete identities, each attempt at separation actually produces (mestiza/queer) identities that do not wholly fit in either location" (Queer Renaissance 117).
[lxviii] On mixed names in the March see Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 102 and "race Relations in Post-Conquest Wales" 52. Davies calls Gerald's Wales a "'middle nation' – a group caught between, and sitting astride, the normal categorizations of race" (103).
[lxix] The story of how in 1250 Walter Clifford forced a messenger to swallow the king's letter is told in Davies, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales, 1.
[lxx] Davies, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales, 8. Davies elsewhere observes that the use of the term "March" for south Wales was an acknowledgment that "there was a fairly extensive area between native-controlled Wales on the one hand and the kingdom of England on the other which was intermediate in its status, laws, and governance and had its own recognizable habits and institutions" ("Frontier Arrangements in Fragmented Societies: Ireland and Wales," 81). True to the purpose of the collection of essays for which he writes, Davies here insists on calling Wales a "frontier," even while emphasizing its middleness.
[lxxi] Gerald acknowledges this fact in his De Invectionibus (1.2) when he writes that Archbishop Hubert Walter, wishing to condemn Gerald as too Welsh to hold a position of ecclesiastical power in Wales, could not link Gerald there through his name ("Sed nomen istud plus Gallicum quam Wallicum redolere videtur," "But this name of mine seems to smack rather of France than of Wales"). Hubert contents himself with labeling Gerald natione Wallensis, "a Welshman by nation" if not by name. See the Autobiography 171-72 and Yoko Wada, "Gerald on Gerald" 228.
[lxxii] In Robert Bartlett's words, "In his preference for Kambrenses over both Wallenses and Britones, rejecting both what the English called the Welsh and what the Welsh called themselves, Gerald was attempting to create a new vocabulary for his own particularly ambiguous ethnic and national position" (Gerald of Wales, 185).
[lxxiii] The campaign was in retaliation for Welsh alliances with the rebellious English. See Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 28.
[lxxiv] Robert Stein links the monarchs' cadavers and the monstrous hybrids in "The Trouble with Harold" 196-97, observing: "It is hard not read this strange passage as a figure for the political mythology of Henry II's court that celebrates the unity of England, a political mythology constructed by historiographic and hagiographic procedures in which political violence and social rupture is here displaced onto a narrative series of absences, elisions, monstrous couplings, and hybrid bodies" (197).
[lxxv] Thus Gerald's obsession with Romanizing (and thereby Anglicizing) the Welsh church, a process which involved the doing away with clerical marriage and enforcing celibacy; see Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change 176-78. Gerald's uncle David fitz Gerald, bishop of St Davids (1148-76) was among the married clergy.
[lxxvi] Robert Bartlett gives an illuminating example of a misogynistic rant that Gerald superfluously introduced while reworking a saintly vita in "Rewriting Saints' Lives" 602.
[lxxvii] For a very smart reading of the inseparability of text and illustration in this manuscript see Rhonda Knight, "Werewolves, Monsters and Miracles."
[lxxviii] This episode appears in Gerald's Jewel of the Church (2.36) in a long section on clerical blunders in Latin. Walter's mistake here, as Gerald gleefully points out, is to employ the adverb "ubi" when "quo" is required. The Latin phrase translates to "But where has it vanished, where has England's twofold glory gone?" See John J. Hagen's translation, p. 338n. Hubert was a lifelong enemy of Gerald, often describing him as too Welsh to become a prelate in Wales. See Yoko Wada, "Gerald on Gerald" 228.
[lxxix] As Steven Kruger has recently reminded, "Christianity encountered difference not only as it expanded into previously pagan lands, nor only at its 'frontiers' or in its Jewish ghettoes; 'heretical' differences always threatened to erupt within the heart of European Christendom" (review of James Muldoon, Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages146). These internal differences are especially salient in considering Gerald of Wales, who colonized the "irregular" Welsh church in order to bring it into conformity with Rome.
[lxxx] To make matters worse, not only was Gerald forced to undertake the trip with the archbishop of Canterbury, they were joined by Bishop Peter at St. David's in celebrating a mass which performed the obeisance of the Welsh seat to Baldwin. This religious ritual as public theatre was surely scripted by the Angevin rulers of England, who saw that the submission of the Welsh church to Canterbury and the submission of the Welsh to the English throne were inextricably linked.
[lxxxi] For an excellent discussion of the context of Gerald's preaching tour through Wales, see Christopher Tyerman, England and the Crusades156.
[lxxxii] A source for the story has not been found in Abelard's work; it seems unique to Gerald.
[lxxxiii] See Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England 51.