Sex/Object: sex as an object in the medieval mind, society, and art
Philosophy and Art History Research Seminar meets weekly in term on Thursday afternoons to discuss a paper by a visiting philosopher, art historian, or a member of our academic staff.
This week's speaker is Dr Eleanor Janega, (Kings College London and London School of Economics) is a medieval historian specialising on the topics of sex, society, cities, propaganda and the apocalypse.
Abstract: "Sex/Object: sex as an object in the medieval mind, society, and art"
Sexuality in the medieval period, as now, was a nuanced. Coded as inherently sinful, it was nevertheless necessary for procreation, and therefore coded as acceptable within the bounds of the sacrament of marriage, with multiple added strictures. However, it was also acknowledged that sexual interest couldn’t always be assuaged by those who were not married, and existed outside of the imperative to procreate. This paper aims to look at the medieval conception of sex which underpinned the discussion of societal accommodations for it. Sex is often characterised by medieval theologians and philosophers as an independent object which is possessed by individuals and can overcome or override them. This paper will examine medieval perceptions of sex as an object, with particular reference to thinkers such as Jerome, Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen. It will argue that sex is seen in the medieval period as a resource or driving force, independent of individuals, and that it is presented as an objectified commodity within art as a result. The paper will also reflect on the fact that this is an idea which still influences modern discussions of sexuality – in particular discussions of theoretical sexual deprivation.
The seminar will be followed by informal drinks at Top Bar and a meal.