Revealing and concealing: The persistence of vaginal iconography in medieval imagery. The mandorla, the vesica piscis, the rose, Sheela-na-gigs and the double-tailed mermaid.

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Title: Revealing and concealing: The persistence of vaginal iconography in medieval imagery. The mandorla, the vesica piscis, the rose, Sheela-na-gigs and the double-tailed mermaid.
Authors: Pearson, E. Ann.
Date: 2002
Abstract: This study examines the persistence of vaginal iconography in both religious and secular medieval imagery. In ancient times the vagina was a sacred sign of powerful creative forces associated with many different goddess figures. Archeologists have uncovered thousands of goddess artifacts indicating the vagina, some more literally with a genital orifice or a slit, some with the oldest abstraction of the female genitalia, the inverted triangle known as the pubic triangle. Although Christianity assimilated and transformed vaginal imagery to its own purposes, I contend that its continued use in abstracted forms (the vesica piscis or mandorla); in evocative forms from nature (shells and various types of flowers, notably the rose); or as a blatant anatomical display (Sheela-na-gigs and double-tailed mermaids); maintained a referent to female or goddess aspects of the divine in 11 th to 15th century medieval iconography. Visual hermeneutics is my primary methodology. I use it to argue that the vaginal referents in my chosen categories were evident to medieval viewers because of the persistence of awareness of pagan beliefs and practices as evidenced particularly in illuminated manuscripts of the period. My second argument is based on vaginal imagery in the highly erotic language and imagery of devotional practices which began in the 12th century. The resurgence of this referent is all the more surprising in an age which condemned luxuria or lust as one of its major sins.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/6133
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-14701
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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