Conference: Desiring Statues

26-27 April 2012, University of Exeter

Statuary has offered a privileged site for the articulation of sexual experience and ideas, and the formation of sexual knowledge. From prehistoric phallic stones, mythological representations of statues and sculptors, e.g. Medusa or Pygmalion, to the Romantic aesthetics and erotics of statuary and the recurrent references to sculpture in nineteenth- and twentieth-century sexology and other new debates on sexuality, the discourse of the statue intersects with constructions of gender, sex and sexuality in multiple ways. As historical objects, statues give insight into changing perceptions of the sexed body and its representation; they tell stories of ownership and appropriation of sexualities across diverse cultural locations and historical moments.

As an imaginary site, statues can serve to trouble the distinction between subject and object, reality and unreality, presence and absence, and present and past, thereby offering rich possibilities for thinking about the relation between individual and communal identities, sexuality and the past. This interdisciplinary conference seeks to investigate how statues facilitate this interplay of sexuality and history. It explores the numerous different ways in which statues – as historical and/or imagined artefacts – allow us to think about the past and its relation to sex, gender and sexuality.

The conference brings together contributors from a wide variety of disciplines, including history, gender and sexuality studies, literary and cultural studies, art history, classics, archaeology and philosophy.


Thursday 26th April 2012 09.00‐9.45 Registration 9.45‐10.00 Welcome 10.00‐11.30 Session 1 Panel 1: Gender and the Erotics of the Living Statue

Panel 2: Statues, Censorship and Nudity

11.30‐12.00 Break 12.00‐13.30 Session 2 Panel 1: Statuary, Sexuality and Modernity

Beth Brunton (Queen Mary University of London)

From Motherhood to Mannequin: Bodily Perfection in Good Morning Midnight.

Lynsey McCulloch (Anglia Ruskin University)

‘Why, did you think you had married a statue?’ The Erotics of Sculptural Motion in English Renaissance Drama.

Will McMorran (Queen Mary University of London)

Made of Stone: Reading And Watching Sade’s ‘Eugénie de Franval’.

Julie Anne Godin Laverdière (Université du Québec à Montréal)

The Arrest of The Family (1949) and the Destruction of The Peace (1951): The Reception of Two Indecent Sculptures in Montréal.

Linda Ann Nolan (John Cabot University and American University of Rome)

Deadly Nudity and Xenophobia in St. Peter’s Basilica in Early Modern Rome: the reception of the figure of Justice on the Tomb of Pope Paul III.

Sophie Schoess (University College London)

The Naked Truth: Ancient Greek Sculpture in the Face of Christian Censorship.

Andrew Eschelbacher

Gendering Modernity/Modernizing Masculinity.

(University of


Charles Miller (University of Manchester)

The Sex of an Origin: Picasso, Freud, Glozel.

Bernard Vere (Sotheby’s Institute of Art)

‘A Token of Triumph Cut Down to Size: Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill as Fetish Object’.Panel 2: The Erotics of the Gaze: Interacting with Statuary Objects

13.30‐14.30 Lunch 14.30 ‐16.30 Session 3 Panel 1: Desiring the Past: Eighteenth­Century Uses of Statuary

Panel 2: Sculpting Gender and Sexual Norms in Antiquity and Beyond

16:30‐17.00 Break 17.00‐18.00 Keynote Lecture: Dr. Ian Jenkins, Senior Curator, Ancient Greece at the British Museum:

‘The Body Beautiful: The Human Body in Greek Art and Society’. 19.00 Conference Dinner (details to be announced)

Sarah Jones (University of Exeter)

‘The Art of Love’: Religion, sex and the Tourist Gaze at the Temples of Khajuraho.

Amy Mechowski (Victoria and Albert Museum)

‘Britain’s Most Romantic Museum’ or a ‘Temple of Lust’?: Statuary, Lesbian Spectatorship and the V&A.

Lisa Trentin (Wilfrid Laurier University)

The Sleeping Hermaphrodite: Desirous Viewing in Ancient and Eighteenth­Century Rome.

Sarah Betzer (University of Virginia)

Dangerous Admiration: Sculpture and Desire on the Grand Tour.

Katharina Boehm (University of Regensburg)

Desiring Antiques: Sir William Hamilton, Commercial Antiquarianism and the Cult of Priapus.

Elsje van Kessel (DFK, Paris and Leiden University)

Longing for the Past: Eichendorff’s Marmorbild and the Lives and Deaths of Statues.

Katie McAfee (University of Cambridge)

The Sexy Statue: Venus’ Body Through Eighteenth­Century Eyes.

Linnea Åshede (University of Gothenburg)

Hermaphroditos – Desired object and desiring subject.

Glenys Davies (University of Edinburgh)

The Gendered Body Language of Roman Portrait Statues.

Jane Draycott (British School at Rome)

Determining Desirability: Aphrodite of Cnidus vs. Baubo of Eleusis.

Fabio Guidetti (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)

“I am black, but comely” ­ desire, sensuality and colour in Roman ideal statuary.

Friday 27th April 2012

9.00‐9.30 Registration 9.30‐11.00 Session 4 Panel 1: Statuary (Im)Possibilities of Desire

Panel 2: Sculptural (In)Decency

11.00‐11.30 Break 11.30‐1.30 Session 5 Panel 1: Agalmatophilia

June Dunn (Eastern Connecticut State University)

Statuesque Landscape: The Cailleach and the Topolatry of Desire in Colm Tóibín’s “A Long Winter”.

Sarah Parker (University of Birmingham)

‘Which is the god, / which is the stone / the god takes for his use?’: H.D. and Bryher’s Sculptural Exchanges.

Ery Shin (University of Oxford)

“She was gracious and yet fading, like an old statue in a garden”: Nightwood’s Robin Vote, Impossible Object Desire, and the Culture/Nature Binary.

Catriona MacLeod (University of Pennsylvania)

Flirting with Sculptural Indecency: The Realist Psyche.

Melissa Percival (University of Exeter)

Angelina Jolie as a Breastfeeding Muse: The Nude Female Portrait in Context.

Linda Walsh (The Open University)

Houdon’s Winter and the Problematic Sexuality of Youth.

Jane Fae (Independent Scholar)

“Agalmatophilia” as Paraphilia.

Caterina Y. Pierre (Kingsborough Community College, CUNY)

The Pleasure and Piety of Touch in Aimé­Jules Dalou’s Tomb of Victor Noir.

Shawn O’Bryhim (Franklin & Marshall College)

In the Footsteps of the Greek Agalmatophiliacs.

Lise Wajeman (Aix‐Marseille Université)

The Erotic Power of Sculpture and the Question of Artistic Superiority: Agalmatophilia and the Paragone During the Sixteenth Century.

Panel 2: Statuary and Science

13.30‐14.30 Lunch 14.30‐16.00 Session 6 Panel 1: Statuary, Colonialism and Nation

Panel 2: Metamorphosis, Materiality and Desire

16.00‐16.30 Break 16.30‐17.30 Keynote Lecture: Dr Stefano Evangelista, Fellow and Tutor in English, Trinity College,

University of Oxford: Title TBC 17.30‐18.00 Closing remarks

Updated: 1st November 2011 / Please note that the programme might be subject to minor changes due to unforeseeable circumstances.

Richard Brown (University of Leeds)

“Silent veining…drinking electricity”: The Bodies of Statues in Joyce.

Melissa Haynes (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

A Unique Anthropometry: Measuring the Venus de Milo and a Rationality of Desire.

Alice McEwan (University of Hertfordshire)

Mythological Sculpture at the Service of Eugenicist Desire in the early Twentieth Century: the Case of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Living Statues’.

Guillermo de Eugenio Pérez (Carlos III University of Madrid)

Wax Dolls and the Dream of Asepsis.

Cora Gilroy‐Ware (University of Bristol)

“The Fragment of the Negro’s Chest”: Benjamin Robert Haydon and the Black Body.

James Hargrove (Roanoke College)

Paris 1900: Bodies of National Identity.

Gráinne O’Connell (University of Sussex)

Embodying the Nation; Emancipated Ex­Slave Statues in Jamaica’s Emancipation Park and the Jamaican Afro­Creole Nationalist Project.

Vito Adriaensens (School of Arts, University College, Ghent) and Steven Jacobs

(University of Ghent)

Mysteries of the Wax Museum: Eros, Thanatos and Sculpture in American Cinema.

Katie Faulkner (Courtauld Institute of Art)

Metamorphosis in Sexuality and Sculpture in the Nineteenth century: G.F. Watt’s Clytie, 1868­78.

Ashley Hannebrink (University College London)

Stone and Flesh in Antoine Watteau’s Fêtes Galantes.

Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Stefano-Maria Evangelista (University of Oxford)
  •  Dr Ian Jenkins (British Museum)

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Uses of Statuary in Sexual Science
  • Statues in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts
  • Representations of Statues and Sculptors (in Literature, Visual Arts, New Media)
  • Sculptures and the Construction of Gender, Racial and National Identity
  • Use of Statuary in Sexual Reform Movements
  • Psychoanalytic Uses of Statuary
  • Statues, Gender and Sexuality in Myths, Legends and Their Adaptations
  • Sculpture and Figurations of Desire
  • Statuary Representations of the Gendered Body
  • Reception Histories of Individual Statues

The conference is organised by Dr Jana Funke ( and Jennifer Grove ( as part of the interdisciplinary Sexual History, Sexual Knowledge project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, and led by Drs Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands.


Jana Funke, Jennifer Grove

Event Location:
University of ExeterExeterEX4 4RJ

United Kingdom

Call for Papers details

Call for papers deadline:

1 October 2011

Please send 300-500 words abstracts to and The deadline for abstract submissions is 1st October 2011.

Contact details

Jana Funke
Contact phone:


Jennifer Grove


  1. Sadly, I’m all the way down in Australia, but if I was anywhere near Exeter, there are quite a few talks that would have interested me, including ‘Britain’s Most Romantic Museum’ or a ‘Temple of Lust’?: Statuary, Lesbian Spectatorship and the V&A.; Hermaphroditos – Desired object and desiring subject; and Paris 1900: Bodies of National Identity.

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