Seeing and Knowing: Science, Pornography and Early Modern Hermaphrodites

  • Ruth Gilbert


In Paradise Lost Milton’s Satan confesses an ‘unspeakable desire to see, and know’.1 Satan’s words, which anticipate his voyage into the New World, resonate with a particularly Renaissance excitement about specular exploration and the pursuit of knowledge. However, as St Augustine had already suggested these were potentially dangerous thrills. In the Confessions he meditated upon the temptations aroused by the ‘lust of the eyes’, arguing that such ocular desires were most dangerous when motivated by ‘a relish for investigation and discovery’.2


Royal Society Seventeenth Century Philosophical Transaction Sexual Knowledge Sexed Body 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • Ruth Gilbert

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