“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Margie Ferguson on the Hymen: Further Notes

Margie has been kind enough to correspond with me on her talk, which I found more than exciting. Here are some extra notes:

My bad, Crooke's text is from 1615 not 1516.

It's significant that skepticism was strongly emergent in Renaissance discourse around the hymen. Margie cites the mockery made of “testing” for virginity in drama, for instance. This skepticism is what is sorely lacking in contemporary hymen practices such as surgery.

This is part of a bigger picture having to do with the notion of “plastic surgery”: is it a need or a luxury? (Of course, the term confuses the seemingly black and white difference.)

I had an extra thought. The cynical narrator in The Book of Thel makes Thel's voice from the grave (weird, yes?) speak a bewildered horror about the determinacy of the body. The ears are vortices that sucks things in: “The Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in.” The final line of this sequence obviously concerns the hymen: “Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?”

The curtain evokes images of the four poster bed and the stage. The curtain that must be unveiled (apocalypse) to reveal being. Which in The Book of Thel is all about how creatures are penetrated by the voice of God (logos), given a place in the great ecosystemic machine. Thel's resistance to this dichotomy and to this attitude is hardly ever supported in the secondary literature: why won't she just grow up and have (virtual) sex with God like everyone else?

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