By happy chance, but also because it has something essential to say about human nature, the androgyne proved to be an enduring topos of European civilization, encouraged no doubt by the fact that its sources are to be found in both the major foundational streams of Western culture, the Bible and classical Greece. As will have become clear in the course of this study, the biblical androgynes are a crucial part of this process. Plato’s Androgyne came to second them; alone, long out of view, it would not have had the same power to assert and to insert itself in European thought. By the Renaissance, the androgyne had accumulated a complex, nuanced, centuries-long tradition of applications in a variety of guises, almost all of which suggest that normal, biologically single-sexed humans might access the whole range of human qualities—that is, the plenitude of the androgyne. From antiquity to the early modern period, writers and thinkers made use of these ideas, directly or indirectly, knowingly or not. The biblical androgynes, inscribed in passages often committed to memory early in young learners’ lives and echoed in many other sacred texts, were part of the feedstock of a world view to be called upon as needed.
KeywordsEarly Modern Period European Thought French Expression Functional Gender Theological Understanding
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- William Monter, The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300–1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), especially pp. 131–33.Google Scholar
- 2.Barbara Newman, Medieval Crossover, Reading the Secular against the Sacred (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), p. 4.Google Scholar
- 4.This change started earlier, but adaptations were slow, as repeated edicts forbidding the same behavior attest. See Max Harris, Sacred Folly (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).Google Scholar