Thursday, 5 February 2015

Julia Lillis: Christianity and Medicine, Health, and Disability: Virginity's AnatomyWORKSHOP TITLE

Patristic authors and their contemporaries offer varied definitions of virginity. Their claims, injunctions, and characterizations raise a number of questions and (sometimes conflicting) answers. Is virginity a physical state? To the extent that it is located in the body, what features mark its presence or absence? In what ways does it function as a metaphor? Can virginity be verified medically? Should it be? How does sexual violence problematize the assessment of virginity? Such questions have gained new prominence in recent work on sexuality and bodies in antiquity, in fields ranging from classics and the history of medicine to historical theology and early Judaism and Christianity.
The papers for this workshop seek to elucidate patristic thought on virginity in relation to other discourses. Late ancient ideas about virginity are intimately linked with medical knowledge and practice, with exegetical and theological work, and with social expectations concerning women and men, virgins and non-virgins. Our topics include noteworthy shifts toward and away from physicalized notions of virginity in patristic writing, a patristic presentation of the relationship between defloration and virginity testing, and the complications coerced sex imposes upon the question of virginity's location within the body and soul. As we contribute projects from diverse fields, we plan to enrich our ongoing work through close engagement with shared questions and sources.

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