Generation and Degeneration: Tropes of Reproduction in Literature and History from Antiquity through Early Modern Europe

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This distinctive collection explores the construction of genealogies - in both the biological sense of procreation and the metaphorical sense of heritage and cultural patrimony. Focusing specifically on the discourses that inform such genealogies, Generation and Degeneration moves from Greco-Roman times to the recent past to retrace generational fantasies and discords in a variety of related contexts, from the medical to the theological, and from the literary to the historical. The discourses on reproduction, biology, degeneration, legacy, and lineage that this book broaches not only bring to the forefront concepts of sexual identity and gender politics but also show how they were culturally constructed and reconstructed through the centuries by medicine, philosophy, the visual arts, law, religion, and literature. The contributors reflect on a wide range of topicsufrom what makes men omanlyo to the identity of ChristÆs father, from what kinds of erotic practices went on among women in sixteenth-century seraglios to how menÆs hemorrhoids can be variously labeled. Essays scrutinize stories of menstruating males and early writings on the presumed inferiority of female bodily functions. Others investigate a psychomorphology of the clitoris that challenges FreudÆs account of lesbianism as an infantile stage of sexual development and such topics as the geographical origins of medicine and the materialization of genealogy in the presence of Renaissance theatrical ghosts.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The glory of this collection is the way it tackles quite abstract issues corporally. It reminds the reader how fundamental is the relation between human physiology and human ideas of history.”—Susan Noakes, author of Timely Reading: Between Exegesis and Interpretation

“[This book’s] ensemble of motifs is not simply cast in currently fashionable psychoanalytical language. It displays a wide array of critical perspectives yet a homogeneity of viewpoints and ideological bents occur through its disparate contributions. A truly unified piece of scholarship.”— Giuseppe F. Mazzotta, author of The Worlds of Petrarch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822326441
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Valeria Finucci is Associate Professor of Italian at Duke University. She is the editor of Renaissance Transactions: Ariosto and Tasso, also published by Duke University Press and the author of The Lady Vanishes.

Kevin Brownlee is Professor of French and Italian at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Poetic Identity in Guillaume de Machau.

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Table of Contents

Genealogical Pleasures, Genealogical Disruptions 1
1 Theories of Reproduction
Generation, Degeneration, Regeneration: Original Sin and the Conception of Jesus in the Polemic between Augustine and Julian of Eclanum 17
Maternal Imagination and Monstrous Birth: Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata 41
2 Boundaries of Sex and Gender
Contradictions of Masculinity: Ascetic Inseminators and Menstruating Men in Greco-Roman Culture 81
Menstruating Men: Similarity and Difference of the Sexes in Early Modern Medicine 109
The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris, or, The Reemergence of the Tribade in English Culture 153
3 Female Genealogies
Genealogies in Crisis: Maria de Zayas in Seventeenth-Century Spain 189
Incest and Agency: The Case of Elizabeth I 209
4 The Politics of Inheritance
In Search of the Origins of Medicine: Egyptian Wisdom and Some Renaissance Physicians 235
The Conflicted Genealogy of Cultural Authority: Italian Responses to French Cultural Dominance in Il Tesoretto, Il Fiore, and La Commedia 262
Hauntings: The Materiality of Memory on the Renaissance Stage 287
Index 317
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