Session Title

Hermaphrodites: Genitalia, Gender, and Being Human in the Middle Ages (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies

Organizer Name

Ruth Evans, Eileen A. Joy

Organizer Affiliation

St. Louis Univ., BABEL Working Group

Presider Name

Eileen A. Joy

Paper Title 1

Hermaphroditism and Liberation

Presenter 1 Name

David Rollo

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Southern California

Paper Title 2

Sex and Genre: Disorienting the Place of Hermaphrodites in Pilgrimage Narratives

Presenter 2 Name

M. W. Bychowski

Presenter 2 Affiliation

George Washington Univ.

Paper Title 3

Talking Back: Sodomy Laws and Intersex Subjectivity in Medieval Venice

Presenter 3 Name

Alexander Baldassano

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Graduate Center, CUNY

Paper Title 4

The Hermaphroditic Soul in Medieval Art

Presenter 4 Name

Sherry C. M. Lindquist

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Western Illinois Univ.

Paper Title 5

"Wikked Wyves" and the "Secrets of Women": The Wife of Bath's Hermaphroditism

Presenter 5 Name

Wendy Marie Hoofnagle

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Univ. of Northern Iowa

Start Date

13-5-2016 3:30 PM

Session Location

Fetzer 1005

Description

Intersex today is a complex medical and cultural issue that challenges society’s fundamental ideas about sexual dimorphism and gender difference: how small does a penis have to be to be not clearly male? how large does a clitoris have to be to be not clearly female? Moreover, not all chromosomal variations result in perceptible genital ambiguity, and some sex anatomy variations do not show up until later in life. In late antiquity and the Middle Ages hermaphroditism was not highly medicalized as it is today. Rather, as a perverse figure of indeterminate or double sexuality, the medieval hermaphrodite reinforced not only sexual, but also religious and racial difference, troubling the borders between human/non-human, human/animal, human/monster, Christian/Jew, Christian/Muslim, Christian/heretic, and European/other. Hermaphroditic personifications in medieval texts remind us also of the imbrication of the sexual and the linguistic in medieval culture. Although the intersex person today and the medieval hermaphrodite have historically very different boundaries, and although there is no medieval memoir like that of Hercule/Herculine Barbin that would provide access (however limited) to the lived experience of the medieval hermaphrodite, it is important to keep open the question of the potential continuities between past and present bodies, genders, and sexualities, and to recognize the ways in which the historical figure of the hermaphrodite calls in question what we consider today to be natural or normal about genitalia, gender, and being human. This session invites short (10-minute) contributions on the medieval hermaphrodite.

Ruth Evans

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May 13th, 3:30 PM

Hermaphrodites: Genitalia, Gender, and Being Human in the Middle Ages (A Roundtable)

Fetzer 1005

Intersex today is a complex medical and cultural issue that challenges society’s fundamental ideas about sexual dimorphism and gender difference: how small does a penis have to be to be not clearly male? how large does a clitoris have to be to be not clearly female? Moreover, not all chromosomal variations result in perceptible genital ambiguity, and some sex anatomy variations do not show up until later in life. In late antiquity and the Middle Ages hermaphroditism was not highly medicalized as it is today. Rather, as a perverse figure of indeterminate or double sexuality, the medieval hermaphrodite reinforced not only sexual, but also religious and racial difference, troubling the borders between human/non-human, human/animal, human/monster, Christian/Jew, Christian/Muslim, Christian/heretic, and European/other. Hermaphroditic personifications in medieval texts remind us also of the imbrication of the sexual and the linguistic in medieval culture. Although the intersex person today and the medieval hermaphrodite have historically very different boundaries, and although there is no medieval memoir like that of Hercule/Herculine Barbin that would provide access (however limited) to the lived experience of the medieval hermaphrodite, it is important to keep open the question of the potential continuities between past and present bodies, genders, and sexualities, and to recognize the ways in which the historical figure of the hermaphrodite calls in question what we consider today to be natural or normal about genitalia, gender, and being human. This session invites short (10-minute) contributions on the medieval hermaphrodite.

Ruth Evans