By R. Gilbert
From the 16th century to the eighteenth century, hermaphrodites have been mentioned and depicted in a number creative, mythological, clinical and erotic contexts. Early sleek Hermaphrodites appears at a few of these representations to discover the tales they inform approximately ambiguous intercourse and gender in early smooth England. Gilbert examines the usually contradictory ways that hermaphrodites have been represented as either religious beliefs and sexual grotesques; as freaks, erotic gadgets and clinical curiosities' and as literary metaphors and symptoms of social decay.
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Extra info for Early Modern Hermaphrodites: Sex and Other Stories
As the next section of this chapter will argue, if the hermaphrodite was indeed a kind of monster, it was often of a far more socially determined kind. Masculine, feminine and hermaphrodite: hermaphroditized gender Throughout the early modern period the sign of hermaphroditism was used repeatedly to signify transgressions of conventional gender codes and legitimate sexual practice, and the term ‘hermaphroditism’ was used metaphorically to label appearances or behaviours that challenged the heterosexual binary of gender.
These stories referred to the body but were not absolutely conﬁned to physicality. As the next section of this chapter will argue, if the hermaphrodite was indeed a kind of monster, it was often of a far more socially determined kind. Masculine, feminine and hermaphrodite: hermaphroditized gender Throughout the early modern period the sign of hermaphroditism was used repeatedly to signify transgressions of conventional gender codes and legitimate sexual practice, and the term ‘hermaphroditism’ was used metaphorically to label appearances or behaviours that challenged the heterosexual binary of gender.
Telling the Truth of Sex 35 Sexual difference/sameness: the biology of hermaphroditism There never was (or is) any single truth of sex. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century biological theories placed the hermaphrodite within a diverse epistemological context that highlighted its paradoxical position. Hermaphroditism was represented as both the logical effect of a fundamental sexual similarity and an impossible bridge between radically opposed sexual differences. 4 Nevertheless, medical studies of hermaphroditism throughout history have tried to ﬁnd deﬁnitions and explanations for embodied sexual ambiguity, and hermaphrodites evidently fascinated early modern medical writers.
Early Modern Hermaphrodites: Sex and Other Stories by R. Gilbert