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Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past$
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Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199660513

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199660513.001.0001

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Queer (Mis)Representations of Early Modern Sexual Monsters

Queer (Mis)Representations of Early Modern Sexual Monsters

Chapter:
(p.243) 11 Queer (Mis)Representations of Early Modern Sexual Monsters
Source:
Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past
Author(s):

Karin Sellberg

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199660513.003.0012

This chapter investigates Thomas Laqueur’s Making Sex, Stephen Orgel’s Impersonations, and Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘Fiction and Friction’. These scholars provide a reading of early modern scientific discussions of ‘sexual monsters’, such as hermaphrodites, which arguably could be construed as an historically validated alternative, destabilizing the discourse of rigid categorical differentiation and heterosexual imperative. According to Laqueur, Orgel, and Greenblatt, there were ways in which earlier forms of sexual science construed sexual categories as fluid or flexible. Although such an argument is compelling, this chapter shows that several historical case-studies were misread and misconstrued, and it suggests that this was done in an effort to adhere to a very specific political and scholarly agenda. Inspired by the emergent queer theory and historical methodologies developed by new historicism and cultural materialism, the literary and historical scholars were invested in reading early modern hermaphrodism in light of contemporary intellectual frameworks and concerns.

Keywords:   presentism, sex, gender, hermaphrodism, queer theory, new historicism, cultural materialism, Helkiah Crooke, Ambroise Paré, Michel de Montaigne

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