Dawn LaValle: Physiology of the Spiritual Body
Dawn LaValle’s research centers on the Greek literature of Imperial period, specifically the interaction between pagan and Christian modes of writing literature. The Greek-speaking world underwent fundamental shifts in culture, religion and philosophy during the first centuries of our era. While some creative writers responded by anchoring themselves more firmly with their Classical past, others celebrated these changes by modifying generic conventions to emphasize the newness of their message. Her research attempts to listen in on the dialogue between these two rhetorical communities.
The project that Dawn is carrying out at Magdalen is a proposed book called “The Physiology of the Spiritual Body: Metaphors of Semen, Blood and Milk in Early Christian Literature”, which focuses on a particular sub-set of those writers interested in emphasizing the “new.” Some Christian authors chose to describe this “newness” borrowing language from contemporary medical texts. Through this graphic physical language, Christians forefronted their glorification of the physical, an important philosophical point that corresponded to their belief in eternal bodily persistence. However, because of how frequently they moved the medical into the allegorical, their apparent glorification of the physical might be undercut. Dawn plans to untangle some of the ways in which the flexible tool of physiology and medicine was used by different authors through tracing the rhetorical power of three bodily fluids associated with conception and birth: blood, semen and milk.