Sexy Things

3 June 2015, 12:00 - 14:00

Room SG1, Alison Richard Building.

Professor Will Fisher (English, The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
’Doctor Dildo’s Dauncing Schoole’: Sexual Instruments and Women’s Erotic Agency in England, c.1600-1725

Dr Jen Evans (History, University of Hertfordshire)
Kindling Cupid’s Fire: Aphrodisiacs in early modern England

 

Abstract

Dr Jen Evans: Some ‘things’, like foods, are unfortunately ephemeral; they are produced and consumed leaving little of their materiality behind. Yet food can have multiple meanings and can be engaged with as a range of things – as sustenance, as medical remedies, as enhancers of sexual pleasure. It was common knowledge in early modern England that sexual desire was malleable, and could be increased or decreased by a range of foods, including artichokes, oysters and parsnips. This paper will explore the understanding of some early modern aphrodisiacs and show that they were understood not just to be titillating sexual curiosities, but were a crucial element in medical regimes designed to restore and improve fertility. Moreover, in this paper I will begin to unpick the different ways in which aphrodisiacs might have been approached as material objects by considering not just the foods that were eaten, but those that were used as gifts, those used as dildos, and the pungent foods and substances that were used as fumes and fragrances. This paper will reveal that the world of early modern aphrodisiacs was very varied but was nearly always substantially influenced by medical ideas about the fertility of the body.

 

 

Open to all.  No registration required
Part of Things that Matter, 1400-1900 Research Group seminar series