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How were male bodies viewed before the Enlightenment? And what does this reveal about attitudes towards sex and gender in premodern Europe? This richly textured cultural history investigates the characterization of the sex of adult male bodies from ancient Greece to the seventeenth century. Before the modern focus on the phallic, penetrative qualities of male anatomy, Patricia Simons finds that men's bodies were considered in terms of their active physiological characteristics, in relation to semen, testicles and what was considered innately masculine heat. Re-orienting attention from an anatomical to a physiological focus, and from fertility to pleasure, Simons argues that women's sexual agency was perceived in terms of active reception of the valuable male seed. This provocative, compelling study draws on visual, material and textual evidence to elucidate a broad range of material, from medical learning, high art and literary metaphors to obscene badges, codpieces and pictorial or oral jokes.Read more
- Provides a new and provocative interpretation of male bodies and the role of gender in premodern Europe
- Richly illustrated, drawing on examples of material culture from across Europe
- This interdisciplinary model of cultural history will appeal to readers interested in gender history, art history, medical history and European literatures as well as critical theory and cultural studies
Reviews & endorsements
"This is a remarkable book, based on an extraordinary depth of scholarship. Patricia Simons provides a detailed unpicking of the sexual codes of Renaissance Europe, so that one can finally understand the innuendo. No-one else has her detailed knowledge, and she has it for language, image and material object – this is real cultural history in the round. And her fundamental argument is completely original, and will change how we think about the period. The book is a treat to read, never jargonistic and always witty."
Lyndal Roper, Professor of Early Modern History, University of OxfordSee more reviews
"With this book Patricia Simons offers a characteristically original, learned, and passionate critique of some of the ruling assumptions of gender studies, above all as these have operated in the study of early modern culture. Artifacts and images are called upon to serve a set of arguments grounded in medical literature, trial reports concerning medical-juridical anomalies such as hermaphrodites, popular and elite literatures, jokes, pastimes and folklore. The breadth of erudition is impressive in the extreme."
Stephen Campbell, Professor and Chair, Department of the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University
"This exuberant new history of the masculine body combines art history, material culture, literature and sexuality. Patricia Simons has it all – encyclopedic knowledge, phenomenal interpretations, subtle inferences from the medical archive, and the keenest observation of visual nuance."
James Grantham Turner, Professor and Chair, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley
"A thought-provoking and important study of the premodern European perceptions of the sexed (male) body that provides critical insights on sex and gender not only for the scholars of early modernity but for anyone concerned with bodies and gender, past or present."
Council for European Studies
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- Date Published: January 2014
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107656871
- length: 344 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
- weight: 0.46kg
- contains: 61 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Witnessing Men's Bodies: Paradigms Old and New:
1. How to be a man in early modern Europe
2. The phallus: history and humour
3. Material culture in late medieval and early modern Europe
Part II. Projecting Male Sex: Models and Metaphors:
4. Physiology and anatomy
5. Value and expenditure
6. Pleasure and the unequal two-seed theory
7. Fertility and beyond
8. Implements in action
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