Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History

Piotr O. Scholz, Author Markus Wiener Publishers $18.95 (327p) ISBN 978-1-55876-201-5
Long before John Bobbitt's wife made him notorious, emasculation was regarded as an act of torture; however, many cultures have regarded self-castration, in particular, to be virtuous. When opera became popular in the 17th century, castration ensured that young men (thereafter referred to as castrati) would retain the high voices necessary for certain roles. And when Bertolucci directed his epic film The Last Emperor, he was sure to include actors representing the more than 2,000 eunuchs in attendance at the Chinese court. But are Eunuchs and Castrati interchangeable terms? No, claims author Piotr O. Scholz of the Universities of Iodz and Bonn, although he admits that even among scholars there is confusion about how their meanings differ. Using scholarship as his foundation, Scholz explores art, literature and the social and religious history of sexuality to provide readers looking for enlightenment about the male member a rollicking yet informative romp through time and across cultures. Translated by John A. Broadwin and Shelley L. Frisch.
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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