Lecture 2: Wandering Wombs

Believe it or not, some people – including doctors and scientists – believed that a womb possessed a mind of its own and was capable of dislodging and travelling around the body. In fact, the case of the wandering womb was regarded by the Hippocratic writers of ancient Greece as a severe threat to the wellbeing of a woman, causing – you guessed it –hysteria (among other ailments). Theories as to the cause of this medical mystery, such as lack of intercourse, continued to be touted, along with the diagnosis, hundreds of years later.

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at in this lecture, read Erica Wright’s ‘Magic to Heal the ‘Wandering Womb’ in Antiquity’, Folklore Thursday (January 18, 2018): https://folklorethursday.com/folklife/magic-to-heal-the-wandering-womb-in-antiquity/

Image for Lecture = Foetal positions in uterus, pregnant female. Wellcome Images


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 second 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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