“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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Margie Ferguson on the Hymen: UCD Lecture 4

Abraham Cowley on the hymen, 1656. “The worst estate even of the sex that's worst ... Slight, outward Curtain to the Nuptial Bed!”

It's an imaginary point, that does not exist until one imagines it as a threshold or barrier. A doorway, a case, a false front of a building. Or a hidden essence, a magnetic center.

To say that the hymen doesn't exist as a stable single thing, separate from imagination, is not to say that it isn't important. The phenomenon named as if it were substance has the power to drive action and empirical practices.

Cowley: to find the hymen is an alchemical art...maiden is to chastity as porter is to door...a guardian but not the thing itself. Invisible, an aporia or crux. Must be thought as open and closed at once.

Cowley's poem offers crafted resistance to those who want the hymen to exist as a thing that one can simply purchase or be punished for lacking. Apostrophe to the hymen. A theatrical curtain or a magician, monk, alchemist. “A point imaginary.”

Spivak: the point of humanist critical thinking is to aim at “the uncoercive rearranging of desires.”

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