The Criminalization of Hermaphroditism in Old Regime France

Abstract : In 1601, Marie Le Marcis and Jeane Lebfevre were arrested under suspicion that they had, on multiple occasions, committed sodomy . However Le Marcis pleaded that she was innocent because, even if she had been baptized as a woman, she sincerely thought of herself as a man. Faced with this particular situation, an inferior judicial court asked surgeons and doctors to determine whether Le Marcis was a man or a woman. A century and a half later, Anne Grandjean, who had also been baptized as a woman, was accused of profanation of marriage because she had, as a man, married a woman. Both of them were suspecting to be hermaphrodites by their community. The judicial system of Old Regime France had to take actions against these bodies that were challenging the binary gender division of the society. By reason of these trials, the judicial system had to determine whether these individuals were men or women base on the medical and judicial theories of this period. Following the work of Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston on monstrous bodies, and that of Alice Dumorat Dreger , Patrick Graille and Cathy McClive on hermaphrodites in Early Modern Europe, the first objective of this presentation is to illustrate how the judicial system of Old Regime France dealt with the bodies of these individuals. The second objective is to shed light on the ways through which this system constructed legal definitions of masculine and feminine bodies to maintain and protect a binary social division between male and female. We will look at how the judicial system of Old Regime France used these bodies to reaffirm the gender binary and to condemn gender transgressions. This presentation is based on the archives of trials involving hermaphrodites, together with medical treatises written by the surgeons who had been convoked by the court to help determine the legal gender of these individuals.
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https://hal-univ-tlse2.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02080639
Contributor : Mathieu Laflamme <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 11:21:41 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 1:22:05 AM

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  • HAL Id : hal-02080639, version 1

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Mathieu Laflamme. The Criminalization of Hermaphroditism in Old Regime France. Extraordinary Bodies in Early Modern Nature, International Workshop, Oct 2017, Uppsala, Sweden. ⟨hal-02080639⟩

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