Women on Top: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe

TitleWomen on Top: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1978
AuthorsDavis, Natalie Zemon
EditorBabcock, Barbara A.
Book TitleThe Reversible World: Symbolic Inversion in Art and Society
Pagination147-190
PublisherCornell University Press
CityIthaca, NY
Abstract

In hierarchical and conflictive societies in early modern Europe, which loved to reflect on the world turned upside down, the topos of the woman on top was one of the most enjoyed. Indeed, sexual inversion--that is, switches in sex roles--was a widespread form of cultural play, in literature, in art, and in festivity. Sometimes the reversal involved dressing and masking as a member of the opposite sex; sometimes the reversal involved simply taking on certain roles or forms of behavior thought to be characteristic of the opposite sex. The uses of these sexual inversions, and more particularly of play with the common image of the "unruly woman" in literature, in popular festivity, and in ordinary life, is the subject of this essay.

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3205430

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