CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Gender Slippage in the Byzantine Illuminated Book

Session 19 History of Beauty vs. History of Art


Heretofore, scholars have largely neglected gender aspects in regard to the human body in Byzantine art. The present talk aims to expand this issueexa by mining someminiatures in the only known illuminated copy of the Sacra Parallela (Paris, BnF, gr. 923),which shows a visual system of gender slippage. The discussion of the assumed system draws on theoretical notions such as “gender blending” and the Butlerian “gender trouble.”It involves female and male sexual markers and attributes, resulting in a “gender-blended”human body that is no longer portrayed as a fixed perception. Wrought into the disrupted gendered system are early Christian and Byzantine theological and monastic ideas regarding the passion of the flesh and the ways to overcome it.Motivated by the accepted monastic feature of attaining a state of dispassion and spirituality, the gender slippage results in a visual reformulation and renegotiation of the human body thatserves to shape the moral ideology and identity of the monastic community where the illuminated book was made.