October 24, 1990
Question set 4
1. In the chapter "Medicine, anatomy, physiology" in his book The Renaissance Notion of Woman, Ian Maclean discusses the attempts of many Renaissance scholars to reconcile the ideas held by classical scholars about sex differences with new, contradictory evidence. He admits that "woman as seen by physiologists, anatomists, and physicians" is a difficult topic to deal with, pointing to its connections with spermatology, hysterology, the science of the humors, theories of physical change, and especially embryology (p. 28).
He distinguishes Renaissance study of medicine from medieval study by mentioning the sixteenth-century publication of great editions of the writings of ancient medical scholars such as Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen, and the "growth of experimental anatomy" (28). When Renaissance scholars found ideas in the ancient writings that contradicted what they were discovering, they reinterpreted the writings or their observations to try to reconcile the old and the new. The scholar for whom the majority had the most respect was Galen, followed by Hippocrates, but many were influenced by Aristotle as well. Even those who attacked the old schools of thought were still very much influenced by them.
Maclean stresses the importance of texts called the Gynaecea, which he says "assembles the major writings on woman not only of antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also of contemporaries" (29). In these writings appear arguments against Aristotle's statements that women are biologically inferior to men. Many of these arguments are based on an idea that Renaissance medical scholars insisted was Galen's, but no reference to such an idea appears in Galen's work. This anti-Aristotelian idea is that women are perfect in their own sex as men are perfect in theirs. Maclean suggests that writings refuting Aristotle at this time signify the beginning of a "feminist movement" in the medical spheres, although not in the theological ones (29). And this movement is full of contradictions stemming from doctors' wishes "`to harmonize the received texts with a growing body of fresh knowledge that renewed and increasingly more intensive and extensive observations were every day bringing to their notice'" (29).
Maclean then moves on to discuss the theories of Aristotle and Galen about the biological nature of woman. Aristotle maintains that the
male animal is one that generates in another, whereas the female generates in herself. She is further characterized by deprived, passive and material traits, cold and moist humours and a desire for completion by intercourse with the male. (30)
Galen's theories differ from Aristotle's on one crucial point: Galen devotes much time to determining the existence and efficiency of female semen. Also, Galen presents "a more extensive theory of the humours" (30).
What follows this comparison is a series of questions that Maclean spends the rest of the chapter answering. The first of these: Is woman a monstrous creation? He reports that the general consensus is no, because monstrous creations come from something "not in the ordinary course of nature" (30), and sex difference is in the ordinary course of nature, necessary for human procreation, even if women are a "result of a generative event not carried through to its final conclusion according to the Aristotelian theory" (30). Only satirical texts propound the idea of female monstrosity; many other texts refute this claim.
The next question: is woman an imperfect man? Does her sex difference occur because she lacks important male elements? Aristotle and Galen theorize that because of a lack of heat at generation, woman's genitalia have remained inside her body; "she is incomplete, colder and moister in dominant humours, and unable to concoct `perfect' semen from blood" (31). Some justify this theory with theological evidence, quoting Aquinas, but others such as Kaspar Hoffmann use "scientific" evidence and the axiom of heat to explain sex differences. Maclean outlines Hoffmann's argument, based on texts by Galen, Hippocrates, and Aristotle, that male offspring are generated from the right, hotter testicle and carried in the right, hotter side of the uterus, and that woman's cold nature deprives her of the physical strength and mental virtues that men possess. Maclean also cites the work of Cesare Cremonini, a firm believer in the Aristotelian point of view, who argues against "the existence and efficacy of female semen" (32) and propounds the argument that "Just as the seed is more noble and perfect than the earth in which it is planted and from which it draws nourishment, so also is the male more noble and perfect than the female" (32). Both of these writers accept the Aristotelian and Galenic idea that male and female sex organs are comparable in number, form, and function, but few doctors and scholars accept this idea after 1600. By the end of the sixteenth century, says Maclean, comparisons of male sex organs to female ones are mostly abandoned. He cites the work of André Du Laurens, who argues against comparability, and reports that Du Laurens's text is generally accepted after 1600. By this date, "...one sex is no longer thought to be an imperfect and incomplete version of the other. Indeed,...the uterus now evokes admiration and eulogy for its remarkable rôle in procreation" (32).
This shift in belief leads to Maclean's next question: if women are not inferior, are they still colder and moister than the male? Julius Caesar Scaliger writes that men and women are the same temperature, but men appear warmer because they are drier. Although Scaliger may not mean this seriously, many quote this argument as a valid one. Scaliger's argument is just one of many made during this time, however, because of the confusion arising from the differing opinions of the ancients. Scholars disagreeing with an argument made by another scholar about the opinion of Hippocrates, for instance, discount the argument as a misguided interpolation (34). After 1580, the colder nature of woman is no longer a flaw, but a functional, useful trait.
Woman's temperature is functional; her colder metabolism causes her to consume (`burn up') food less fast, thus leaving residues of fat and blood which are necessary for the nutriment of the foetus and the eventual production of milk. (34)
The next issue becomes, then, whether a relatively hot female can be hotter than a relatively cold male. Galen indicates that this can indeed be the case, and attributes this irregularity to differences in climate, diet, and so forth, thus neatly solving the ethical problems of instances of female domination over men. Maclean then outlines the ways in which Renaissance medical scholars characterize the female physical attributes as inferior to men's and conclude that although woman is indeed perfect in her own sex, she is still a lesser being than man.
From here, Maclean moves on to his fourth question, that of the existence and efficacy of female semen. He states that Renaissance medical scholars would like continue the medieval credence in female nonfunctional testicles (ovaries), because the existence of such would correspond with biblical texts and provide "consistency with the dualities male/female, form/matter, act/potency, possession/deprivation" (35). But Renaissance scholars make the issue much more complicated, questioning Aristotle's attitude toward the subject and drawing attention to the clash between Aristotle and Galen on the topic. Maclean outlines at least seven different opinions held by Galenists and Aristotelians about the existence of female semen, but finally concludes that "The commonly accepted view is that expressed by Galen...which states that woman has semen which is colder and less active than that of the male" (36). This semen, according to Galen, contributes to the form and matter of the embryo, explaining family resemblance, "which Aristotle attributes rather unsuccessfully to menstrual blood" (37). Maclean then briefly discusses a long debate among Aristotelians and Galenists about this issue, emphasizing once again their reliance on a "synthetic structure in which Galen and Aristotle are indispensable" (37).
Maclean moves on to the question of sex determination. Here again an inconsistency between Aristotle and Galen arises.
Sex is said to be determined at the moment of conception by the male semen alone, which may be said to be affected by diet, climate or physical constitution (Aristotle); sex is also said to be determined by the conjunction of male and female semen and their relative temperature (Galen). (37)
Once again, Maclean asserts that the Galenic view is the one most widely accepted after 1600. Aristotelians differentiate between women and men, and between both sexes and monstrosity, but Galenists take a different approach. They outline a number of distinct kinds of men and women resulting from different combinations of male and female semen and placement in the uterus. "The ranges of humours and temperature are more commonly assumed to overlap, thus providing a rudimentary physiological framework by which ethical and political problems such as dominant wives and successful queens may be explained" (38). This Galenist argument supports the view that each spermatozoon incorporates an entire preformed human being just waiting to be deposited in the uterus. Other suggestions of the Galenist theory are sex change and hermaphroditism, both of which fall outside the ordinary course of nature and are thus relegated to monstrosity (39).
Maclean's next question addresses the unique physiological characteristics of woman and their effects on how she is perceived. His first concern is menstruation; he states that during the Middle Ages, menstruation is regarded as malignant and unclean, but during the Renaissance, there is yet another shift in attitude toward the physical "imperfection" of woman. "...There is far less stress on the noxious nature of menses at the end of the sixteenth century, and the majority of texts stress their harmless excremental nature" (40).
Next Maclean discusses a series of questions about the uterus. First, is the uterus an animal in its own right, with a sense of smell? Galen says no, refuting Platonic texts that suggest this animality. Some early Renaissance doctors reject Galen's anatomical description of the uterus, but most later ones accept his point of view (40). Does the uterus have an avidity to procreate? Aristotle propounds that it does, because of his belief that the imperfect seeks out the perfect, and again, early Renaissance scholars agree with him, but this idea is later quietly abandoned because of men's acknowledgement of their own sexual desire. Are women more prone to illness than men? The widely accepted answer to this question seems to be yes throughout the Renaissance; there exist categorizations of "hysterical" illnesses, "many of them inducing lovesickness, melancholia, listlessness and irrational behaviour" (41). Women are thought to be less in control of their psychological selves because of the influence of the uterus. Is the uterus influenced by the moon and the imagination? Almost all the Renaissance scholars believe that this is so.
From here, Maclean remarks upon the psychological implications of women's unique physiological characteristics. He quotes a long passage from the Historia Animalium, a passage which differentiates the "`mental characteristics of the sexes'" and describes women as "less spirited...more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears, at the same time is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike" (42). This comes from the "theory which relates bodily humours to mental characteristics" (42). Women are supposed to have better memories, more vivid imaginations, increased tendencies toward violent passions, a larger degree of psychological softness, and a greater tolerance of pain.
Maclean mentions several arguments that conflict with the abovementioned theory of the humors, but this theory seems to be the prevailing one. He concludes this discussion with the following passage:
It is clear that psychological limitations must have a bearing on the ethical status of woman; her assumed frailty of body, which best befits her for the care of the young and makes her unsuited to exposure to the dangers of the outside world, is accompanied by mental and emotional weakness which are the natural justification for her exclusion from public life, responsibility and moral fulfilment. (43-44)
Once again Maclean returns to the point he has been trying to make throughout the chapter: the medical notion of woman in the Renaissance comes from a curious amalgamation of new discoveries and ancient texts. He explains that the effect of this amalgamation is a supposed "new dignity" for women, a "removal of the taint of imperfection" (44), but acknowledges that "Woman...remains notionally the inferior of the male" (44). He suggests that this inferiority is reinforced by the Aristotelian connection of woman to the passive, mutable mother earth, and the continuing influence of the pre-Aristotelian notion of duality. He cites Aristotle's belief that nature is inclined to produce the most perfect being possible, a belief raising the question of why women are created if they are supposedly so imperfect, and states that Renaissance Galenists resolved this dilemma by insisting that women are perfect in their own sex, a point he has made throughout the chapter.
Lastly, Maclean explores the belief of Renaissance medical scholars that they have improved the dignity of woman. A "feminist" anatomy of woman, according to these scholars, is characterized by colder, moister humors that render woman more emotional and less rational, and her "less robust physique predisposes her...to a more protected and less prominent rôle in the household and in society" (46); even if she is no longer considered "unclean" or imperfect, she is still inferior to the male. Woman is relegated by scientific arguments as well as theological ones to be subordinate to man.
2. Thomas Laqueur's article "Orgasm, Generation, and the Politics of Reproductive Biology" in the book The Making of the Modern Body describes the "radical eighteenth-century reconstitution of female, and more generally human, sexuality" (1). Laqueur provides a broader historical view than does Maclean; Laqueur's purpose is not to explicate the notion of woman during the Renaissance exclusively, but instead to explore "the connection between politics and a new disposition of male and female" (1).
Laqueur begins his discussion by stating that at the end of the Enlightenment, orgasm was no longer considered in medical circles to be necessary to conception, or what he calls generation. After this time, humans -- or at least Westerners -- "no longer linked the loci of pleasure with the mysterious infusing of life into nature" (1), and orgasm became relatively unimportant. He stresses the following point throughout the essay: "An anatomy and physiology of incommensurability replaced a metaphysics of hierarchy in the representation of women in relation to men" (3). In discussing this point, he emphasizes that the perceptions of sexuality are of vital political importance: "Serious talk about sexuality is inevitably about society" (4). When the old social order threatened to fall apart, new definitions of sexuality were necessary to replace the old ones.
Laqueur then traces the history of orgasm and, more important, the changes in widely held beliefs about male and female anatomy, to show just how radical this shift in belief was. Although he admits that this shift began "a century and a half before reproductive physiology came to its support" (3), he outlines the perceptions of physiology nonetheless. He quotes Galen's argument about the anatomical similarities of men and women, and calls the argument "mindbending." Turning to the issue of heat, Laqueur discusses Galen's proposal that women's coolness is functional, enabling them to keep their reproductive organs inside to establish a protective place to carry offspring. Still, Laqueur mentions Galen's belief that "women, whatever their special adaptations, are but variations of the male form, the same but lower on the scale of being and perfection" (5).
He continues with his discussion of Galen's ideas. According to Galen, heat during sexual climax is crucial to conception; simultaneous orgasm generates enough heat to "comingle the seed, the animate matter, and create new life" (5). Galen also describes women's supposed need for sex, detailing "physical signs in women of the desire for intercourse" (7), and states that women seminate similarly to the way men do. From Galen, Laqueur moves on to a discussion of Hippocrates, mentioning the common Renaissance belief that "not only could women turn into men...but bodily fluids could turn easily into one another" (8). He gives several examples of why this was believed to be so (8), and explains that menstruation was considered "but one form of bleeding by which women rid themselves of excess materials" (9). That men did not need to do so was simply further proof of their "superior heat and greater perfection" (9). This explanation seemed a valid one, and became "commonplace in both learned and popular Renaissance literature" (9).
Laqueur then briefly comments on Renaissance attitudes toward barrenness, mentioning Avicenna and Trotulla's texts concerning lack of female desire or an improper amount of heat as causing "no generation." He outlines the consequences of a woman's being too cold or too hot (10), and then moves on to further explanations of the "importance of mutual orgasm" (11). People were willing to go to great trouble to ensure simultaneous mutual orgasm, using foreplay and various drugs and treatments to bring about more heat in the vaginal area. Laqueur mentions the belief that orgasm was connected to the idea of being fruitful and multiplying, making pleasure a crucial element in "the immortality of the species and the continuity of society" (12).
He then turns his attention to anatomical concerns, discussing Renaissance depictions of male and female genitalia as still based on the Galenist inside-out model. Artists such as Leonardo and Vesalius made engravings emphasizing the "homologies between male and female organs of generation" (12). Laqueur then makes what is perhaps the most central point of his essay: "Bodies did not change, but the meanings of the relationship between their parts did" (12). He goes on to explore seventeenth-century attitudes toward genitalia, attitudes which remained largely unchanged from those of the Renaissance. An entire page is devoted to discussion of a case study involving a young woman who spontaneously changed into a young man; the sixteenth-century surgeon Ambroise Pare attributed this change to the heat generated in adolescence that "`chiefly aided by some violent movement, should be able to push out what was hidden within'" (13). Maclean discusses this case only briefly.
Laqueur's argument, however, picks up characteristics of Maclean's description of the confusion resulting from attempts to reconcile old scholars' views with new discoveries, when Laqueur discusses the writings of Jean Sharp, a seventeenth-century midwife. Sharp's 1671 midwifery guide preserves the Galenic attitude that the vagina is a representation of the penis, but also presents her view that the clitoris is the female penis, thus containing two separate and possibly conflicting ideas in one work. Such conflicts were not at all uncommon; Laqueur attributes the willingness to accept them to "the systemic, genitally unfocused account of sex inherited by Renaissance writers from antiquity" (14). He stresses that perceptions of the body were often not very dependent on facts about the body (15), and that seventeenth-century writers were eager to cling to Galen's theory of homology, even in the face of the contradictory evidence that Laqueur outlines on page 16. He states, "...the topological inversions suggested by Galen are, and were known to be, manifestly implausible if taken literally," and presents the argument of the seventeenth-century physician Jacques Duval that Galen's "thought experiment" does not work. But it was not until the Enlightenment, argues Laqueur, that the "foundations of the old social order" were shaken enough to suggest that these common-sense refutations of Galen's view should be taken seriously.
Laqueur then begins a section he titles "Politics and the Biology of Sex Difference" with a discussion of the views of Albrecht von Haller, a famed eighteenth-century biologist. Laqueur cites Haller's account of exactly what happens during orgasm, written in an attempt to prove that orgasm is biologically necessary for conception even though Haller knew that Galen was wrong. Laqueur then expresses his major point of this section: the "dramatic reevaluation" of women's bodies during the Enlightenment came not so much from new biological findings as from new political ideologies looking to find biological bases.
Political theorists beginning with Hobbes had argued that there is no basis in nature for any specific sort of authority--of a king over his people, of slaveholder over slave, nor, it followed, of man over woman. There seemed no reason why the universalistic claims made for human liberty and equality during the Enlightenment should exclude half of humanity. (18)
But fear of women and women's power necessitated a differentiation between women and men, not simply a notion of woman as an unfinished man. Laqueur makes an excellent argument here, citing the male opposition to women's empowerment during the French Revolution, British fear of women's suffrage, and Toqueville's belief in the American destruction of "the old basis for patriarchal authority" (18) as necessitating a new definition of the boundaries between the sexes, even if liberal theory deemed such boundaries archaic.
Liberal theory, the conception of human beings as genderless, rational entities carried around by physical bodies, was an increasingly important point of view during the Enlightenment, but it presented significant problems to those who wanted to justify the reality of sexism, women's passion or lack thereof, and so forth. Even feminists found it necessary to distinguish between men and women in order to create a paradigm in which women's voices could be heard as distinct from those of men. Laqueur presents Rousseau's antifeminist arguments as evidence of "how deeply a new biology is implicated in cultural reconstruction" (19). Rousseau maintains that in the state of nature, society is divided by gender, with "no social intercourse between the sexes, no division of labor in the rearing of the young, and in a strict sense, no desire" (19). The female's refusal of the "male advance" is what causes bitter competition among males, and what causes the fall from this ideal society. If males cannot control themselves, it is woman's fault. Rousseau also makes a great deal of differentiating women from men, insisting that women are constantly reminded of their sex as men are not, and reasoning that "From the differences in each sex's contribution to their union it follows that `one ought to be active and strong, the other passive and weak'" (20). Finally, Rousseau concludes that as women are different from men, so they should not be educated in the same way.
Laqueur then connects Rousseau's arguments about the consequences of female modesty to the writings of Diderot, who "locates the creation of desire, of marriage and the family if not of love itself, at the moment women first came to withhold themselves from just any man and chose instead one man in particular" (21). Laqueur presents the ideas of Diderot and of John Millar, a prominent figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, as similar to Rousseau's, but not necessarily antifeminist. Millar espouses the claim that "sexual relations...are the most reliable guide to the character of a society" (21), and presents women as a "moral barometer and as an active agent in the improvement of society" (21). Millar sees "betterment" of women's positions -- i. e., their relegation to the home to raise children -- as a sign of moral progress and the positive development of a civilization.
From this exploration of men's ideas, Laqueur turns to a study of the writings of women of the Enlightenment. An underlying theme of women's writing of the time, argues Laqueur, is the hope for the triumph of reason over flesh, or mind over matter. He first discusses Anna Wheeler's book, jointly written with William Thompson. This book refutes James Mill's argument that women are not likely to be ignored or abused because of their sexual power over men. Mill presents men as sexually desirous and women as free from such desire; therefore women can bargain with men. Wheeler and Thompson insist that woman is not at all immune from sexual desire, but instead may be "`more the slave of man for gratification of her desires than man is to woman'" (23) because she cannot seek gratification outside marriage as man can. They also maintain that because women are the weaker sex, they are more apt to be better legislators, ruling fairly and justly instead of trying to oppress others with their strength. Laqueur states that such a belief is not an uncommon one for the time: "Whether through inherent nature...or through centuries of suffering, women are construed as less passionate and hence morally more adept than men" (23).
Laqueur then addresses Mary Wollstonecraft's dilemma of whether or not to consider sexual passion as an important factor in the growth of civilization. She solves this dilemma, Laqueur argues, by taking "the moral high ground" (23) for women, presenting women as the figures who "civilize men and raise children up to virtue." She argues, as did many others, for the control of temper and passion by religion and reason. Laqueur then likens Wollstonecraft's argument to that of Sarah Ellis, who states that women have enough power from within the home, and concludes the section with a brief recapitulation of what finally did happen after the shift in the notion of woman.
The next section, "Reproductive Biology and the Cultural Reconstruction of Women," addresses the goings-on in the scientific world during the Enlightenment. Laqueur stresses the connections of this scientific world to the world of art and society, and then moves to discuss new discoveries that had significant social impact. First of all, he addresses the nineteenth-century discovery that mammals, regardless of environmental stimuli, ovulate regularly and spontaneously, and discusses the implications of this discovery. This finding was not immediately believed to pertain to human beings; the distinguished physician Johann Friederich Blumenbach believed that "`venereal ardour alone...could produce, among the other great changes in the sexual organs, the enlargement of the vesicles" (25). Before the 1840s, there was not enough evidence to convince scientists of spontaneous human ovulation. Laqueur details experiments performed on pigs and dogs to prove spontaneous ovulation in these animals, and he describes the attempts to connect the findings from these experiments to human biology. The difficulty in studying the human female menstrual cycle ensured that an understanding of the "role of the ovaries in the reproductive cycle of mammals was imperfectly understood until the publication of a series of papers beginning in 1900, while the hormonal control of ovulation by the ovary and the pituitary remained unknown until the 1930s" (27).
Even though the human female was hard to study, the studies performed on dogs affected the perception of women nonetheless. Dogs' "heat" was connected with female menstruation, implying that women were only fertile when they were bleeding. Such a notion killed "the old physiology of pleasure and the old anatomy of sexual homologies" (27); the new perception became one of the ovary as woman. Even though such respected scholars as Haller, Blumenbach, Remak, and Muller made credible arguments against the connection of human menstruation to animal heat, Laqueur argues that this connection persisted because of its attractiveness to people such as Pouchet, who wished to establish a rational explanation for the female reproductive cycle. Pouchet called upon "logic" in his quest to "substitute the physician for the priest as the moral preceptor of society" (29), removing power from the clergy and placing it in the hands of objective scientists. Laqueur also mentions that this parallelism of animal heat to women's menstruation "could be just as easily used to prove women's moral elevation as to prove the opposite" (29). If women experience the same thing as animals, it is an example of the wonder of civilization that they do not display the same "quite mad behavior" (30) that animals in heat do.
Laqueur then turns to the arguments of Walter Heape, "the militant antisuffragist and reader in zoology at Cambridge University" (31). Heape states that "`the reproductive system is not only structurally but functionally fundamentally different in the Male and the Female,'" and claims that the effects that this system has on the rest of the body are so powerful that "`the Male and Female are essentially different throughout'" (31). Laqueur notes that there was little medical reason not to believe arguments such as Heape's, because "the basic histology of menstruation--let alone its causes--was not established until...1908" (31). Heape's explanation of the nature of menstruation is a painful, destructive one, with a graphic description of a monthly "`ragged wreck of tissue, torn glands, ruptured vessels'" (32), and so forth. This "soul-wrenching trauma" was thought to control women's lives; Laqueur outlines Mary Putnam Jacobi's refutation of the idea that a "nervous force" leads to menstruation, rendering women "unfit for higher education, a variety of jobs, and other activities that demand large expenditures of the mental and physical energy that was thought to be in such short supply" (32). Laqueur views Jacobi's refutation of this view as basically good criticism, but he remarks that she does not present new ideas about physiological fact. Her biggest contribution, says Laqueur, is a theory that the nature of menstruation is nutritive, not destructive. Although she does not stress the periodic nature of menstruation, she does reemphasize the possibility of a "radical split between woman's mind and body, between sexuality and reproduction" (33) -- the mind over matter theory once again. She attempts to divorce menstruation from sexual impulse, presenting the menstrual cycle as "the ebb and flow of female nutritive rather than sexual activity" (34). Laqueur points out that Jacobi was wrong, but insists that his goal is not to belittle her work. Instead, he uses her work as yet another example of research used to back up "largely extrascientific considerations" (34). Nineteenth-century scientists, as many researchers before them, had little data available to them, so they bent what they knew to fit "cultural imperatives." In quoting medical texts, Laqueur concludes, "Cultural concerns have free license here, however imbedded they may be in the language of science" (35). Thinkers of the Enlightenment, needing justification for differentiating the sexes, took authority from science. The idea of women's inherent passion was finally abandoned, and a biology of incommensurability finally prevailed.
3. Maclean and Laqueur both discuss historical attitudes toward the human body, especially the female body, but they use different methods and thus emphasize different points of view. Maclean's foremost concern is the notion of woman during the Renaissance; he does not discuss the change in attitude that occurred during the Enlightenment. Both authors write about historical notions of woman, but while Maclean poses and answers a series of questions about the Renaissance conceptions of femininity, Laqueur explores the change in the attitudes toward women and their bodies over the course of several centuries. He does not address the Renaissance perception of the supposedly Galenist idea that women are perfect in their own sex, as Maclean does, but instead concerns himself with contrasting pre- and post-Enlightenment ideas about anatomy and conception.
Maclean's approach, asking and answering a number of questions without trying to tie together all the points he makes, is frustrating. Laqueur's article is much more cohesive and understandable. Laqueur discusses much of the same material that Maclean covers, but he puts it into its historical context, showing the outcomes of the ideologies that Maclean outlines. For instance, Maclean discusses the Aristotelian and Galenic theories about women's biology, describing the impact that these theories had on Renaissance thinkers, and detailing the attempts of these seventeenth-century scholars to reconcile new scientific findings with the old, almost universally accepted ideas of the ancients. Laqueur, however, gives a much more detailed account of the Galenist view that woman was simply a man turned inside out, going into much greater detail about anatomical features than does Maclean concerning this supposed parallelism. Maclean explores different aspects of the repercussions of Galen's theories, but Laqueur spends more time exploring Galen's theories themselves. Laqueur provides more historical background, and then, after describing various systems of belief about the body during the Renaissance, discusses the eventual abandonment of Galen's ideas during the Enlightenment.
The one argument that holds Maclean's article together is that Renaissance scholars were willing to bend observed evidence to fit old systems of thought. This is not an argument that Laqueur ignores. Even during the Enlightenment, Laqueur says, a "novel construal of nature comes to serve as the foundation for otherwise indefensible social practices" (19). Even though these two articles approach similar subjects very differently, perhaps one of the most important points of both of them is that scientific findings were -- and are -- governed by societal mores.