Generation and Degeneration

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

Generation and Degeneration

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: March 2001

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Religious Studies

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 topics—from what makes men “manly” to the identity of Christ’s father, from what kinds of erotic practices went on among women in sixteenth-century seraglios to how men’s 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 Freud’s 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.
This collection will engage those in English, comparative, Italian, Spanish, and French studies, as well as in history, history of medicine, and ancient and early modern religious studies.

Contributors. Kevin Brownlee, Marina Scordilis Brownlee, Elizabeth Clark, Valeria Finucci, Dale Martin, Gianna Pomata, Maureen Quilligan, Nancy Siraisi, Peter Stallybrass,Valerie Traub


“[O]wing to the strength of its individual contributions, this wide-ranging and engaging collection will likely appeal to scholars, teachers, and students whose interests include some combination of comparative literature and culture.” — Catherine S. Cox , Sixteenth Century Journal

"Generation and Degeneration demonstrates just how fertile the crossbreeding of literature, gender studies, and history can be. . . . [T]horough, concise and convincing . . . ." — Cheryl Goldstein , Comitatus

"[A] suggestive example of how the old, male genealogies of history have changed dramatically." — Guido Ruggiero , Renaissance Quarterly

"[A]n ambitious, wide-ranging, and deeply comparative project. . . . [T]he collection thoughtfully challenges the boundaries that habitually limit our fields of inquiry, and demonstrates many of the rewards of exploring a wider intellectual landscape. The book offers a number of extremely intelligent, original, and rigorous researched essays; it will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and critics, particularly those with interests in the history of gender, medicine, and the body." — Tanya Pollard, Shakespeare Studies

"[T]his bold and inventive collection will inspire readers from a wide range of scholarly perspectives to form their own new theories on bodies, gender and generation in pre-modern Europe." — Kim M. Phillips , Parergon

"Valeria Finucci’s introduction provides a highly useful synopsis of the essays, taking great pains to justify their inclusion in this collection and how they fit within the overall themes of the other essays in each section. So lucid is the introduction that anyone without the time to read each essay in depth can refer to the brief overview provided by Finucci and glean an accurate sense of the central argument of each contribution. . . . [T]he editors have done an admirable job in organizing these contributions. . . . By incorporating so many disciplines, the editors must be commended on their ability to maintain a strong continuity throughout this book. There is no doubt that the essays presented in this volume represent highly profound scholarship and prove to be an important reference point for anyone interested in issues of gender and generation." — Jason Sager , Sixteenth Century Journal

“[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

“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


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction: Genealogical Pleasures, Genealogical Disruptions / Valeria Finucci

1. Theories of Reproduction

Generation, Degeneration, Regeneration: Original Sin and the Conception of Jesus in the Polemic between Augustine and Julian of Eclanum / Elizabeth A. Clark

Maternal Imagination and Monstrous Birth: Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata / Valeria Finucci

2. Boundaries of Sex and Gender

Contradictions of Masculinity: Ascetic Inseminators and Menstruating Men in Greco-Roman Culture / Dale B. Martin

Menstruating Men: Similarity and Difference of the Sexes in Early Modern Medicine / Gianna Pomata

The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris, or The Reemergence of the Tribade in English Culture / Valerie Traub

3. Female Genealogies

Genealogies in Crisis: María de Zayas in Seventeenth-Century Spain / Marina Scordilis Brownlee

Incest and Agency: The Case of Elizabeth I / Maureen Quilligan

4. The Politics of Inheritance

In Search of the Origins of Medicine: Egyptian Wisdom and Some Renaissance Physicians / Nancy G. Siraisi

The Conflicted Genealogy of Cultural Authority: Italian Responses to French Cultural Dominance in Il Tesoretto, Il Fiore, and La Commedia / Kevin Brownlee

Hauntings: The Materiality of Memory on the Renaissance Stage / Peter Stallybrass

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2644-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2655-7
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