Sex and God: On Religious Scholars and Erotic Love Poetry in Medieval Andalusia


ACLS Fellowship Program


Religious Studies


"Sex and God" investigates a subset of Muslim and Jewish poetry in medieval Spain: erotic poems written by religious scholars in which the lover-beloved relationship is compared to scriptural storylines. Although both sets of poets eroticize their sacred forbears in such poems, they do so with different results. Muslims utilized their scriptural corpus in order to sanctify earthly, often prohibited, love; although the Jewish scholars employ their own scripture to the same effect, a number appear to take a step further. Some of the erotic Hebrew poetry contains subversive and surprisingly placed Biblical exegesis. A comparison of this erotic poetry to the poets’ traditional exegetical writings sheds light on understanding why they embedded exegesis of the sacred into poems about the profane.