TitleKeynote Lecture 2017: Other Sexualities - The 'Natural' and the 'Unnatural' in Medieval French Ovidian Narratives (Language: English)
Date/TimeTuesday 4 July 2017: 13.00-14.00
SpeakerSylvia Huot, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge
IntroductionHans-Werner Goetz, Fachbereich Geschichte, Universität Hamburg
AbstractOvid's Metamorphoses presents a panoply of characters who exhibit various forms of what is deemed within the text to be deviant sexuality: incest, homoeroticism, bestiality, attraction to an inanimate image. As these characters struggle with their desires, both in Ovid's text and in the many medieval French texts drawing on it, they reflect on the extent to which their condition is or is not 'natural', that is, replicated among animals. At times they seem even to be engaged in a kind of competition, as Iphis, for example, considers that her desire for another girl is even more unacceptable than that of Pasiphaë for a bull, who is at least male; or Jean de Meun's Pygmalion compares himself favourably to Narcissus in that the object of his desire does at least really exist. Exploring the medieval reception of these figures allows not only for an investigation into cultural constructions of race, gender, desire, and the lines of difference that amorous liaisons may or may not successfully bridge; but also for an analysis of the importance of sexuality in medieval conceptions of the crucial differences separating humans from other animals within the natural world.

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