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Katherine Crawford

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and History
Director of Women's and Gender Studies

Katherine Crawford, Director of Graduate Studues, received her PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1997, where she was subsequently a Harper Postdoctoral Fellow for two years. Since coming to Vanderbilt, she has taught courses on gender and sexuality, including “Early Modern Sexualities,” “Sexuality and Gender to 1700,” “Sexuality and Gender since 1700,” “Women in the Renaissance,” and “Pornography and Prostitution in History.” In addition to teaching Western Civilization, she also teaches courses on the history of France (“France: Renaissance to Enlightenment; “The French Revolution”) and theory (“Theory and Practice for Historians; “Historical Methods”).

Crawford’s first book, Perilous Performances: Gender and Regency in Early Modern France (Harvard University Press, 2004), examines the political dynamics created by the need to utilize queen mothers as regents when their underage sons became kings. Beginning with Catherine de Médicis, the political structures of governance had to be reconfigured to accommodate a woman acting in place of the king. Developed as an institution by Marie de Médicis (on behalf of Louis XIII) and Anne d’Autriche (on behalf of Louis XIV), regency became a female political form in France. When a man, Philippe d’Orléans, became regent for Louis XV, the politics of gender shaped his regency in significant ways that marked the monarchy until the end of the Old Regime. Indeed, the politics of regency figured in the French Revolution, where royalists considered Marie-Antoinette to be a regent after Louis XVI’s execution. Overall, the story is one in which the gendering of political authority that occurred in regencies affected the “normal” political situation by facilitating the gradual expansion of royal authority. Makeshift efforts to compensate for the gender deficiencies of regents, both female and male, produced consistent pressure for political innovation in the direction of greater royal authority. Regencies and regents, along with the anxieties and the various compensatory structures they produced, provide a means to analyze the conjunctions of event, circumstance, and person that alter the semantic field upon which gender and politics combine.

Crawford’s second book, European Sexualities, 1400-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) is part of the New Approaches to European History series. Designed for classroom use, this book offering a synthetic interpretation of developments in and scholarship on sexuality, particularly taking into account the influences of women’s history, social history, and the discourse theory of Michel Foucault. Topics include marriage and family, religion and sexuality, science and medicine, crime and social control, and deviancy and the culture of sex. Utilizing material from across Europe, European Sexualities presents both controversies within the historical literature and new interpretations of source materials.

Crawford's third book, The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 2010), examines the premise that the French Renaissance organized sex and sexuality in strange ways. Sexual expression, neither solely defined as a matter of identity nor merely restricted to individual acts, generated an intersecting and contradictory set of articulations. It occupied, saturated, and organized modes of thinking to which we, for the most part, have little access. These modes now seem to us to require translation in more than one sense. Sex, as it was understood in the French Renaissance, was less a breeding-ground for modernity than it was a synecdoche that allowed for an elastic understanding of sexuality. In other words, the transactions between and among physical bodies opened up a language for the deployment of sexuality that had wide-ranging implications for issues ranging from sovereignty through nationalism to gender-, race-, and class-based identities. Please link here for a review of this book from The Times Literary Supplement, November 12, 2010 issue.

Articles related to these projects have appeared in The Sixteenth Century Journal, French Historical Studies, Renaissance and Reformation, The Journal of Modern History, The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and The Journal of the History of Sexuality, as well as The Cultural History of the Body (Forthcoming) and The Cultural History of Sexuality (Forthcoming). Crawford was awarded the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching September 2008.