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Scholars such as John Demos, Lyndal Roper, Robin Briggs, and Steven Connor were no crude Freudians and often preferred Melanie Klein’s emphasis on motherhood to de Certeau’s Lacanian prioritization of language. and the relation of these two to sexual difference.” Both assume that a history of the body must be a history of what Roper calls “the physiological and psychological reality” of gender.But they were all working within a tradition, derived ultimately from Freud’s predecessor Jean-Martin Charcot, that viewed possession through the lens of hysteria; and despite regular attempts to extend it to male patients, hysteria remains fundamentally associated with femininity. Similarly, it seems no great leap from the “porosity” and “openness” that Caciola finds in medieval female anatomy to Steven Connor’s Lacanian association of possession with “invaginated hollowness” and cultural perceptions of “the castration or deficiency of the female body.” A similar trend has been apparent in medical historiography.Since both Freud and Charcot were influenced by their own studies of possession, moreover, the apparently natural “fit” between their theories and these phenomena is less convincing than their advocates sometimes assume. Much of the most significant work on early modern medicine and the gendered body has been generated by the sustained and hostile reaction against the “one-sex model” propounded in Thomas Laqueur’s .
This article takes as its starting point a series of early modern exorcisms that challenge these premises.
The Denham exorcisms of 1585–86 featured a male demoniac, Richard Mainy, who claimed to have a woman’s illness, the disease known as “suffocation of the womb.” They also included a possessed woman, Sara Williams, who underwent apparently sexualized exorcisms centered around her genitals.
Nancy Caciola and Moshe Sluhovsky both agree that possession was linked to femininity but trace this link to premodern medical concepts of gender rather than twentieth-century psychiatric ones. It is therefore inevitably a gendered history” echoes the program of Roper’s provocatively titled : to investigate “the irrational and unconscious . Much of this work has focused on medical writings on womb diseases.
The assertions of these historicist scholars are interestingly close to those of the psychoanalytic studies that preceded them. These scholars have broken with the notion that illnesses of this type can be “retrospectively diagnosed” as hysteria.
The painter need keep himself on hand solely to collect the benefits of an endless series of strokes of luck.
His gesture completes itself without arousing either an opposing movement within itself nor the desire in the artist to make the act more fully his own.“What was to go on the canvas,” Rosenberg wrote, “was not a picture but an event.” Notable Quote Weak mysticism, the “Christian Science” side of the new movement, tends …toward easy painting—never so many unearned masterpieces!Satisfied with wonders that remain safely inside the canvas, the artist accepts the permanence of the commonplace and decorates it with his own daily annihilation. published Greenberg’s “‘American-Type’ Painting,” in which the critic defined the now-ubiquitous term “abstract expressionism.”RELATED: What Did Clement Greenberg Do?A Primer on the Powerful Ab Ex Theorist’s Key Ideas In contrast to Rosenberg’s conception of painting as a performative act, Greenberg’s theory, influenced by Clive Bell and T. Eliot, was essentially a formal one—in fact, it eventually evolved into what would be called “formalism.” Greenberg argued that the evolution of painting was one of historical determinacy—that ever since the Renaissance, pictures moved toward flatness, and the painted line moved away from representation.Sluhovsky’s claim “The history of possession is a history of bodies. But they have also, it might be argued, subtly confirmed it, by emphasizing the extent to which the womb was indeed viewed as a potent source of mental and physical illnesses that were unique to women.Since some of these illnesses, such as suffocation of the womb, possessed cultural associations with demonic possession, studies like these offer powerful support for the notion that possession too was a kind of female malady.It was this wider category of illnesses, affecting both men and women, that was associated with demonic possession in this period.Both possession and the diseases that resembled it, moreover, were linked to early modern theories of sexual physiology that stressed the similarities rather than the differences between male and female sexuality.As part of the larger “culture wars” of the mid-century, art critics began to take on greater influence than they’d ever held before.For a time, two critics in particular—who began as friends, and remained in the same social circles for much of their lives—set the stakes of the debates surrounding the maturation of American art that would continue for decades.