Despite the fame many castrated men gained on account of their singing voice, castrates rarely left personal accounts of their sense of self or their desires. In sharp contrast to the comparative silence of castrates, commentary about them was extensive and significantly shaped perceptions of desires ascribed to or circulating around them. Early modern interlocutors variously understood castrates to be deficient, excessive, or perverse in desire because of the physiological and social effects of being deprived of functional testicles. Denied access to normative modes of social and sexual legibility—in addition to being unable to father children, they generally could not marry—castrates nonetheless attempted to frame their desire in gender-normative terms. But the multiple and contradictory readings of the castrate body as defective and insufficient in terms of gender legibility facilitated the rendering of castrates as transgendered, disabled subjects.


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pp. 59-90
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