Lecture 5: Birthing Bunnies (and other such things)

Complete with illustrations and contemporary written records, this lecture unpacks stories around women giving birth to animals, from rabbits to pigs. It considers the origins of such stories, exploring the possible explanations behind them, and addresses related topics, including witchcraft, psychological duress, miscarriage, early science, and fraud.

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at in this lecture, read Sara Ray’s ‘How Careful She Must Be: Midwives, Maternal Minds, and Monstrous Births’, Lady Science (2019): https://www.ladyscience.com/midwives-maternal-minds-and-monstrous-births/no56

You may also be interested in Sandhya Hegade’s ‘The Tale of Tannakin Skinker — The Pig-Faced Woman of Europe’, Medium (July 18, 2023): https://medium.com/the-collector/the-tale-of-tannakin-skinker-the-pig-faced-woman-of-europe-254e0b1d59c4

Image for Lecture = ‘Tannakin Skinker’, from A Monstrous Shape, or a Shapelesse Monster, 1640


Marguerite Johnson is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland. She is a cultural historian of the ancient Mediterranean, specialising in sexuality, gender, and the body, particularly in the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, and Ovid, as well as magical traditions in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, with a regular focus on Australia. In addition to ancient world studies, Marguerite is interested in sexual histories in modernity as well as magic in the west more broadly, especially the practices and art of Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Bodies Behaving Badly – From Vagina Dentata to Wandering Wombs – 6 part Lecture Series

This is the fifth lecture in a special six-part series, Professor Marguerite Johnson takes us on an uncanny journey across time and space into the wilds of human imagination. Each lecture introduces a particular case study – from vaginas that bite to penises that disappear – and is extensively illustrated along with written accounts of these bodily anomalies. Participants will also receive a reading list for those interested in pursuing the topics in more detail.

Image for Series: Mary Magdalene, 15th century, wood, from Altschwendt, Austria

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May 12th 2024 - 8.00 pm - 9:30 pm

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