Download Performing Virginity and Testing Chastity in the Middle Ages by Kathleen Coyne Kelly PDF

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By Kathleen Coyne Kelly

This booklet demanding situations the idea that woman virginity may be reliably and unambiguously outlined, verified and tested. Kelly analyses a number of medieval Western ecu texts - together with scientific treatises and their Classical antecedents - and ancient and criminal records. the focus is the illustration of either female and male virgins in saints' legends and romances. the writer additionally makes a comparative examine of examples from modern fiction, tv and movie within which checking out virginity is a subject. acting Virginity and trying out Chastity within the heart a long time offers a compelling and provocative learn of the parodox of physically and religious integrity as either presence and shortage.

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48 Albertus Magnus is not thinking of a break or a rupture of a membrane that would indicate “corruption,” but of an emission of seed, which is one crucial way a woman or a man could lose virginity. 49 Hymeneal variations As we have seen, the treatment of certain female diseases in antiquity and then later in the Middle Ages was predicated upon the idea that the female genitals were not sealed or obstructed, either partially or completely. Such a construction of the female body does not rule out the possibility that physicians and midwives either theorized or observed a ridge of tissue inside the vagina—that is, what we today call the hymen—yet the medical writers of antiquity did not name it, include a description of it, or furnish an explanation for its purpose in any of the treatises on female anatomy that we have.

56 Presumably, such a judgment could be made by palpitation, either by a midwife or physician. We do find descriptions of a ridge of tissue rich in blood vessels which may well refer to the hymen in a handful of influential Arabic texts which were translated into Latin in the Middle Ages. Esther Lastique and Helen Rodnite Lemay are two scholars who argue that the concept of the hymen (that is, the hymen as we recognize it today) originated in the Arabic medical tradition, which was then incorporated into the texts of the Latin West in the early Middle Ages.

The point I want to make is that the Israelites of the pre-Hellenistic period and the Jews of the Talmudic era may have recognized blood as evidence of virginity, but that does not mean that they recognized what we call the hymen as the source of such blood. While the redactors of the Talmud recorded cases in which the sign of blood is adduced as proof of virginity, they also recognized that blood could be an unreliable sign of virginity. 16 Finally, it was acknowledged in the Talmud that it is possible for a woman to injure herself in some way unrelated to intercourse (as the Talmud euphemistically puts it, a woman may have injured herself with “a piece of wood,” thereby causing the blood of virginity to flow).

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