Miraculous Monstrosity: Birth and Female Sexuality in the Illuminated Scivias and Cloisters Apocalypse


This paper compares the illuminations in two medieval apocalypses, the Cloisters Apocalypse and Hildegard von Bingen’s Scivias, to inspect their similar constructions of female sexuality, motherhood, and monstrosity. It first analyzes the monstrosity of female sexual organs found in Hildegard’s portrayal of the Church and the Mother of the Antichrist. The paper then goes on to consider the uncanny slippage between images of birth and death in the Cloisters’s depiction of John and the Woman of Revelation 12. Ultimately, the paper not only explores the monstrosity of female bodies in apocalyptic manuscripts, but also concludes that medieval women’s circular experience of time and memory corresponds with medieval conceptions of circular apocalyptic time, thereby making women’s bodies an apt metaphorical vehicle for apocalyptic narratives

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This paper was published in Iowa Research Online.

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