Michael Camille was an art historian who died far too young (read an obituary of this remarkable man). He was extremely prolific, buzzing with ideas about his specialism Gothic Art. He was also a dear friend. My favourite of his books is Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art. He wanted to call it 'Genitalia in Marginalia' which about sums up the theme. Once you've read this book it is very difficult to think about medieval art falling into discrete categories of the sacred and the profane. His key idea is this:
'the art of the Middle Ages was not a sombre expression of social unity and transcendent order. Rather, it was rooted in the conflicted life of the body with all its somatic as well as spiritual possibilities.'
Camille's subject is whatever is found at the edge: the bizarre figures defecating, copulating, larking around in the margins of medieval manuscripts and in the sculpture on medieval churches and cathedrals. The captions to the illustrations in the book reveal just how subversive some of these images on the edge could be: 'Alexander battles a dragon', 'naked boys tilt at a barrel', 'a lady worships at the altar of the anus' or, one of Camille's personal favourites 'Nun picking penises from phallus-tree'. Some of them are simply weird: 'Bells, simian seals and vomited coins'; others seem to be stream of consciousness doodlings or personal jokes.
If you are looking for simple explanations of the meaning of these images, Camille won't enlighten you: as he explains in his preface, his approach is exploratory, deliberately eclectic in methodology, he wanted it to be as monstrous as its subject matter. This open-ended joyful book is the perfect marriage of subject matter and writer.