Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood

Article excerpt

Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood. By Gary Taylor. New York and London: Routledge, 2000. 307 pp. $25.00 (cloth).

According to Matthew 19:12, "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Taylor's excellent and exhaustive study does not deal with the first of these three categories: those who are eunuchs from birth. Rather, he focuses on the other two-the other-emasculated and the self-emasculated-as powerful symbols in the social construction of genital masculinity.

The book is structured around an exploration of Matthew 19:12, set alongside the theories about genital masculinity of St. Augustine, seventeenth-century playwright Thomas Middleton, and Sigmund Freud. Taylor identifies these three as offering explorations of the divine, the social, and the self. In each case he asks how intentional genital mutilation mirrors the way in which men control other men, or how and why men sacrifice their masculinity to the divine, or how we construct the penis and/or the testicles as signifiers of social position and special responsibility.

Taylor, who is general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare, argues that masculinity is defined by the presence or absence of testicles; the penis is irrelevant. The distinction obviously escaped Freud, whose infamous castration complex focused solely on the penis. Anachronistically, Freud reduced castration to a single meaning and reduced sexuality to a single organ.

The church has always had two conflicting interpretations of the Matthean text: one quite literal, and one definitely allegorical. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Ambrose are among those who argued that Matthew 19 is a call to celibacy, rather than to genital mutilation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.