Workshop Sex and Science in Early Modern Europe

22 February 2019

Sex is a relatively recent invention. Reproduction isintrinsic in human beings, yet sex and sexuality are conceptual constructions of later ages. In the early modern period physicians, anatomists, philosophers and literary authors became fascinated by human desire and sexual behavior. Diving into classical texts, humanists collected ancient knowledge about love and lust. Pornographers catalogued sexual variations to arouse desire. The scientific revolution and early enlightenment encouraged innovative experiments and new theories on desire and reproduction.

CLUE+ and ACCESS (Amsterdam Center for Cross-disciplinary Emotion and Sensory Studies) invite you to a one-day Workshop on Sex and Science in Early Modern Europe. How did scholars define sex and envision its place in our bodies and minds? What knowledge techniques did they employ to gather information about sexual acts and the reproductive system? An international, interdisciplinary panel of speakers, will explore these topics and debate the agenda for further research on the history of sexuality in early modern Europe.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam,

Main building 08A33

Friday 22 February 2019, 9-17h

Registration is free. To sign up, email:






9.00 – 9.30 Registration & Coffee
9.30 – 11.00 Karen Hollewand (Utrecht University) – Opening Lecture

Sex and Science in the Early Modern Dutch Republic


Nigel Smith (Princeton) – Focquen-wat? Libertine Literature and Cultural Revolution Through the Dutch Republic

11.00 – 11.30 Coffee /tea
11.30 – 13.00 Clorinda Donato (California State University) – Writing Desire, Lust, and Science in Eighteenth-Century Italy: Giovanni Bianchi’s Brief History of Caterina Vizzani, 1744
  Sarah Toulalan (University of Exeter) – Child Rape and Sexual Knowledge
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.30 Ruben Verwaal (University of Groningen) – Seminal Knowledge: Materiality of Semen in the Eighteenth Century

Darren Wagner (University of Berlin) – When Sex became Electric: Experiment and Representation in the Eighteenth Century

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee / tea
16.00 – 17.00 Inger Leemans (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) – Discussion and conclusion