Medicine, Medievalism, and the Invention of the French Nation
"This is an original, well-argued, and richly documented book. Zrinka Stahuljak demonstrates clearly the ways in which French doctors and historians in the nineteenth century constructed a vision of the Middle Ages that accorded with their vision of the nation. Pornographic Archaeology exemplifies critical history at its best."—Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study
"Zrinka Stahuljak has written a remarkable textual archaeology that brings to light numerous texts unknown to the great majority of medievalists. Scholars in nineteenth-century culture and history can also benefit from Stahuljak's approach to earlier interpreters of the Middle Ages. She establishes connections between history and medicine, the Middle Ages and the French nation, sex, race, and love. Pornographic Archaeology helps us to comprehend ideological constructions such as nationalism and sexual morals."—Virginie Greene, Harvard University
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.
Zrinka Stahuljak is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Bloodless Genealogies of the French Middle Ages: Translatio, Kinship, and Metaphor and co-author of Thinking Through Chrétien de Troyes.