Leah DeVun (Rutgers University)
"The Shape of Sex: Nonbinary Gender before Modernity"
Leah DeVun is an Associate Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University. DeVun is the author of The Shape of Sex: Nonbinary Gender from Genesis to the Renaissance (Columbia, 2021) and Prophecy, Alchemy, and the End of Time (Columbia, 2009; winner of the 2013 John Nicholas Brown Prize), and co-editor (with Zeb Tortorici) of Trans*historicities, a special issue of TSQ devoted to transgender history before the advent of modern categories of gender. DeVun is the author of articles in GLQ, WSQ, Osiris, postmedieval, and Radical History Review, among other publications. DeVun is also a curator and artist whose work is deeply concerned with feminist/queer history. DeVun's work or interviews have been featured in the New York Times, Artforum, Huffington Post, People Magazine, LA Review of Books, JSTOR Daily, Redbook, Feature Shoot, Slate, Capricious, Art Papers, LA Weekly, Gallerist, and other publications. The recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the Huntington Library, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the American Philosophical Society, and the Stanford Humanities Center, DeVun has lectured widely at venues in the U.S. and Europe.
This lecture focuses on ideas and individuals who allegedly combined or crossed sex or gender categories in Europe from 200–1400 C.E. Ranging widely across premodern European thought and culture, DeVun will look at how and why efforts to define “the human” so often hinged on ideas about nonbinary sex and gender. In a moment when questions about sex, gender, and identity have become incredibly urgent, this talk will cast new light on a complex and often contradictory past. It shows how premodern thinkers created a system of sex and embodiment that both anticipates and challenges modern beliefs about what it means to be male, female—and human.