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Pornographic Archaeology

Medicine, Medievalism, and the Invention of the French Nation

By Zrinka Stahuljak

Publication Year: 2012

In Pornographic Archaeology: Medicine, Medievalism, and the Invention of the French Nation, Zrinka Stahuljak explores the connections and fissures between the history of sexuality, nineteenth-century views of the Middle Ages, and the conceptualization of modern France. This cultural history uncovers the determinant role that the sexuality of the Middle Ages played in nineteenth-century French identity.

Stahuljak's provocative study of sex, blood, race, and love in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century medical and historical literature demonstrates how French medicine's obsession with the medieval past helped to define European sexuality, race, public health policy, marriage, family, and the conceptualization of the Middle Ages. Stahuljak reveals the connections between the medieval military order of the Templars and the 1830 colonization of Algeria, between a fifteenth-century French marshal and the development of Richard von Krafft-Ebing's theory of sadism, between courtly love and the 1884 law on divorce. Although the developing discipline of medieval studies eventually rejected the influence of these medical philologists, the convergence of medievalism and medicine shaped modern capitalist French society and established a vision of the Middle Ages that survives today.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Note on Translations

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p. ix

The modern French texts quoted in this book have been translated by Alisa Belanger, with my assistance, except for the Introduction and portions of Chapters 4, 5, and 6, where I translated with her assistance. Whenever possible, I quote from published English translations. In cases where published...

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Introduction: Sex and Nation

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pp. 1-22

In 1896, Marc André Raffalovich (1864–1934), author of the famous Uranisme et unisexualité, expressed his hopes and testified to the promise that medieval literature in general, and courtly literature in particular, will contribute to the making of the history of sexuality: “The sustained study of romances of...

Part I. Sex and Blood

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1. “Pathologic Archaeology”: An Introduction

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pp. 25-45

The principal nineteenth-century medical theory was hereditarianism, a theory of transmission of characteristics and dispositions in the process of organic reproduction. Hereditarianism was the scientific theorization of the permanence of form, meaning the reproduction of physical and mental traits...

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2. “Pathologic Genealogy”: Biological Heredity and Medieval Kinship

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pp. 46-68

“From the entirety of our study, the role of the doctor emerges then in all of its importance. . . . Knowing the hereditary antecedents of his clients, he will be able to foresee what their children will be; in his perspective, the adage: Pater est quem morbi filiorum demonstrant will offer many more guarantees...

Part II. Sex and Race

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3. Symbolic Archaeology: Sex in the Colonies

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pp. 71-98

The fall of the ancien régime in 1789 created a favorable climate for the revision of the fourteenth-century trial of the Order of the Templars. Charging them with heresy and sodomy—denial of Christ, spitting on the cross, obscene kissing, and idol worship—the French king...

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4. Gilles and Joan, Criminal and Genius: Medical Fictions and the Regeneration of the French Race

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pp. 99-127

The task of imperial medicine was to police the metropole’s borders on the outside and to prevent racial métissage and importation of vices and diseases from the colony. But another fear of racial degeneration, the decline of family, French nation, and European civilization, permeated medical discourses...

Part III. Sex and Love

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5. “Pornographic Archaeology”: An histoire des mœurs

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pp. 131-162

In 1852, in his six-volume Histoire de la prostitution, Paul Lacroix included an essay on medieval urbanism and prostitution entitled “Les rues honteuses au Moyen-Âge” (Streets of Shame in the Middle Ages) and named this reconstitution of sexual topography of medieval Paris a “pornographic...

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6. Courtly Love, Courtly Marriage, and Republican Divorce

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pp. 163-187

In the previous chapter, I traced the philological exclusion of sexuality in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. I argued that the civilizing mission of chivalry and chivalric love was preferable to the unbridled and contaminating influence of sexuality of the fabliaux that could not adequately...

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Epilogue: From Pornography to Archaeology: Priapus at the Cluny Museum

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pp. 188-198

The investigation of Pornographic Archaeology started with the premise of double transference: sexuality and nation formed the nineteenth-century notions of the medieval world and its sexual practices and, at the same time, these ideas shaped the moral and social views in contemporary...


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pp. 199-297


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pp. 299-326


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pp. 327-335


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pp. 337-338

E-ISBN-13: 9780812207316
E-ISBN-10: 0812207319
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244472
Print-ISBN-10: 0812244478

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 822017761
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pornographic Archaeology

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Medical anthropology -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Social archaeology -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Medievalism -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Sex -- France -- History.
  • Heredity -- France -- History.
  • National characteristics, French.
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