The Shape of Sex:
Nonbinary Gender from Genesis to the Renaissance
by Leah DeVun, PhD (she/her)
The Shape of Sex focuses on ideas and individuals who allegedly combined or crossed sex or gender categories from 200–1400 C.E. Ranging widely across premodern European thought and culture, Leah DeVun reveals how and why efforts to define “the human” so often hinged on ideas about nonbinary sex.
DeVun reconstructs the cultural landscape navigated by individuals whose sex or gender did not fit the binary alongside debates about animality, sexuality, race, religion, and human nature. The Shape of Sex charts an embrace of nonbinary sex in early Christianity, its brutal erasure at the turn of the thirteenth century, and a new enthusiasm for nonbinary transformations at the dawn of the Renaissance. Along the way, DeVun explores beliefs that Adam and Jesus were nonbinary-sexed; images of “monstrous races” in encyclopedias, maps, and illuminated manuscripts; justifications for violence against purportedly nonbinary outsiders such as Jews and Muslims; and the surgical “correction” of bodies that seemed to flout binary divisions.
An Interview with author Leah DeVun about The Shape of Sex: