'I beg your grace that you suppress this chapter or else allow it to be written in secret letters': the emotions of encipherment in late-medieval gynaecology

Keagan Brewer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review

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Abstract

The Voynich illustrations feature hundreds of naked women, some of whom have objects adjacent to or unambiguously pointed towards their genitalia. Taking its prompt from these illustrations, this paper investigates the obscurantist emotions evident in self-censorship, erasure, and encipherment in gynaecological and sexological texts and manuscripts. These subjects were often referred to as ‘women’s secrets’, particularly in Germanic cultural contexts, where the Voynich manuscript may have originated. Examples of encipherment, erasure, and self-censorship in gynaecological or sexological texts will be explored. Dr Johannes Hartlieb (c. 1410–1468), for instance, consistently obscured matters relating to coitus, women, and plants throughout his oeuvre, and called for encipherment of methods for contraception, abortion, and sterilisation. Luke Demaitre observed that some Germanic authors considered women’s sexual anatomy alluring but dangerous. It is possible that the Voynich authors were motivated by similar emotions relating to women’s secrets.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalCEUR Workshop Proceedings
Volume3313
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event1st International Conference on the Voynich Manuscript, VOY 2022 - Virtual, Online, Malta
Duration: 30 Nov 20221 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • emotions
  • gynaecology
  • sex
  • Voynich manuscript
  • women’s secrets

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