Hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe  book cover
1st Edition

Hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe

ISBN 9781138259386
Published October 19, 2016 by Routledge
280 Pages

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Book Description

Kathleen Long explores the use of the hermaphrodite in early modern culture wars, both to question traditional theorizations of gender roles and to reaffirm those views. These cultural conflicts were fueled by the discovery of a new world, by the Reformation and the backlash against it, by nascent republicanism directed against dissolute kings, and by the rise of empirical science and its subsequent confrontation with the traditional university system. For the Renaissance imagination, the hermaphrodite came to symbolize these profound and intense changes that swept across Europe, literally embodying these conflicts. Focusing on early modern France, with references to Switzerland and Germany, this work traces the symbolic use of the hermaphrodite across a range of disciplines and domains - medical, alchemical, philosophical, poetic, fictional, and political - and demonstrates how these seemingly disparate realms interacted extensively with each other in this period, also across national boundaries. This widespread use and representation of the hermaphrodite established a ground on which new ideas concerning sex and gender could be elaborated by subsequent generations, and on which a wide range of thought concerning identity, racial, religious, and national as well as gender, could be deployed.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Sex and gender wars; Sexual dissonance: early modern scientific accounts of hermaphrodism; The cultural and medical construction of gender: Caspar Bauhin; Jacques Duval on hermaphrodites: culture wars in the medical profession; Hermetic hermaphrodites; Gender and power in the alchemical works of Clovis Hesteau de Nuysement; Lyric hermaphrodites; The royal hermaphrodite: Henri III of France; Hermaphrodites newly discovered: the cultural monsters of early modern France; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Kathleen P. Long is Professor in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University, USA.


'... one of those valuable books that both introduces unfamiliar authors and recasts well-known figures in a new light. It brings together writing from seemingly disparate registers: medical, satirical, philosophical, lyrical, fictional, and alchemical. One of the book’s surprises is that the hermaphrodite appears so frequently and in so many contexts in early modern France. ... it makes a very important original contribution to scholarship in early modern French literature and culture.' Mary B. McKinley, Douglas Huntly Gordon Professor of French, University of Virginia ’[Kathleen Long] combines a wealth of historical information and textual analysis with a judicious sprinkling of modern theory, all set against a historical backdrop both political and scientific... wide-ranging and engaging study.’ French Studies ’Readers with a background in gender studies will find this book a rich source of material on early modern theories of sex and gender. For medical and social historians it offers a fresh approach to well-known and less well-known sources on monstrous births in Renaissance France.’ Medical History ’Kathleen P. Long's exploration of the hermaphrodite in Europe provides a rich and revealing study of this figure in the early modern period, and presents an interdisciplinary and intertextual approach to gender studies. Indeed, the broad variety of documents analyzed in this book is impressively extensive: scientific and alchemical treatises, political pamphlets, medical texts, novels and poetry... Long admiringly proves her deep knowledge and understanding of this debate by providing a helpful framework and by offering a significant contribution to gender studies in ways that transcend disciplines and culture.’ Renaissance Quarterly