Please join us for a lecture by Leah DeVun on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 6:00 PM in Room 5409 of the Graduate Center, CUNY. Reception to follow!
Dr. DeVun is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender History at Rutgers University.
“Erecting Sex: Hermaphrodites and the Making of Surgery in Medieval Europe”
In this paper, DeVun focuses on ‘hermaphrodites’ and the emerging profession of surgery in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. During this period, surgeons made novel claims about their authority to regulate sexual difference by surgically ‘correcting’ errant sexual anatomies. Their theories about sex, she argues, drew upon both ancient roots and contemporary conflicts to conceptualize sexual difference in ways that influenced Western Europe for centuries after. She argues that a close examination of medieval surgical texts complicates orthodox narratives in the broader history of sex and sexuality: medieval theorists approached sex in sophisticated and varied manners that belie any simple opposition of modern and premodern paradigms. In addition, because surgical treatments of hermaphrodites in the Middle Ages prefigure in many ways the treatment of atypical sex (a condition now called, controversially, intersex or Disorders of Sex Development) in the modern Western world, she suggests that the writings of medieval surgeons have the potential to provide new perspectives on our current debates about surgery and sexual difference.
This event is co-sponsored by the Pearl Kibre Medieval Study and the Doctoral Students’ Council.