A Cannon-Shaped Man with an Amphibian Voice: Castrato and Disability in Eighteenth-Century France

Social Justice @ UBC Noted Scholars Lecture Series
The Intimate Public Sphere: Thinking Through the Skin

Dr. Hedy Law

Assistant Professor of Musicology, School of Music, UBC


Wednesday January 14, 12pm*

Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice   grsj.arts.ubc.ca
Jack Bell Building, 2080 West Mall, Room 028, UBC
University of British Columbia

Directions to GRSJ on UBC Campus: http://bit.ly/R5WyjE


* Lunch provided with RSVP:  RSVP here


Dr. Hedy Law‘s talk discusses how cultural histories of the castrato and the field of Disability Studies can enter into dialogue, arguing that the discourses of stigma and freak help to explain aspects of castrato singers in eighteenth-century France.  Inadequate scientific explanation of the castrato body in Enlightenment medicine led to the cultural mystification of these castrato singers.  Despite receiving royal protection, castrato singers were sometimes subjected to stigmatization, and their performances were sometimes described as if they were freak shows.  Dr. Law argues that what might be called the “enfreaked” castrato singers disclosed a prejudice against the marvelous in the Enlightenment.

Dr. Hedy Law received her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. She has written for Cambridge Opera JournalMusique et Geste en FranceOxford Handbook of Music CensorshipCENTER: Architecture and Design in America; and Noise, Audition, Aurality: Histories of the Sonic Worlds in Europe: 1500-1918. She is writing a book on music, pantomime, and freedom in the French Enlightenment.


Co-sponsored by Critical Studies in Sexuality, Jane Rule Endowment, and Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice