Pathologies and Eroticism: Paolo Mantegazza’s Ambiguous Reflections on Female Same-sex Sexuality’

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I argue that the contradictions and ambiguities which often characterised Mantegazza’s reflections are clearly apparent in his observations on sex between women. Moreover, I suggest that while his overall approach to women’s sexuality and social role was problematically conservative, his rhetorical strategies encourage readers to go beyond his ostensible meaning. At times, his observations even open up quite radical discourses, as indicated above: he questions moralistic condemnations of sexual “pathologies”; he seems to partially legitimise sex between women; and, whether consciously or unconsciously, his thought tends to unravel the very categories of sexuality (homo/heterosexuality) that were fast solidifying at the time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHomosexuality in Italian Literature, Culture, and Society 1789-1919
EditorsLorenzo Benadusi, Paolo Luca Bernardini, Paola Guazzo, Elisa Bianco
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)1-4438-7288-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Mantegazza
  • sexology
  • female sexuality
  • same-sex desire


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