Genealogical Pleasures, Genealogical
valeria finucci
This book is about the discourses that inform constructions of genealo-
gies, whether we speak of genealogy in the biological sense of procreation
and reproduction or in the metaphorical sense of heritage and cultural
patrimony. It retraces generational fantasies and generational discords in a
variety of related contexts, from the medical to the theological, and from
the literary to the historical. It moves through a number of centuries, from
Greco-Roman times to our more recent past. It reflects on topics as varied
as what makes men manly to who is Christ’s father, and from what kinds
of erotic practices went on among women in sixteenth-century Turkish
seraglios to how men’s hemorrhoids can be variously labeled.
Such discourses necessarily bring to the forefront concepts of sexual
identity and gender politics. For many centuries generation—and thus
genealogy—has been understood as men’s business. So much has been
written by physicians, theologians, philosophers, anthropologists, cultural
critics, and writers of literature on why men and engendering are linked,
that the point hardly seems in need of elaboration here.Women do not gen-
erate, Augustine reminds us, following the scripture. They
can any man generate, and is marriage only for the generating kind? Unlike
Roman law, the church did not take a position until a brief of Pope Six-
tus V, ‘‘Cum frequenter’’ (1588), was interpreted as declaring that eunuchs,
castrati, and spadones (that is, men with damaged sexual organs) were not
real men because they could not offer intergenerational continuity, no mat-
ter their heterosexual affections, if any, and therefore could not legally
1. Augustine, Opus imperfectum 3.85.4. See also Clark’s essay in this volume.
Previous Page Next Page