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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Inventions of the Text

White Wombs, Jewish Doctors and Saracen Mummies: The Logic of Infertility in Late Medieval England

30th October 2019, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr. Lucy Allen (Trinity College Dublin)

An Inventions of the Text seminar.

Medieval drama dwells upon miraculous gestation: saints Anne and Elizabeth conceive in old age; a Virgin bears a Son. Their stories claim centre stage, but around them jostle discourses relating to far more quotidian or even sinister manifestations of infertility, which end not with conception but with gruesome medical treatment, sinister intervention, or pregnancy loss. In this paper, I argue that ‘barrenness’ is mobilized as a paradoxical marker of sacred virtue within the late medieval Christian tradition, demonizing, erasing and consuming Jewish and Muslim bodies and the fertility they promise.

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