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In Dante's WakeReading from Medieval to Modern in the Augustinian Tradition$
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John Freccero, Danielle Callegari, and Melissa Swain

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264278

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264278.001.0001

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Medusa and the Madonna of Forlì

Medusa and the Madonna of Forlì

Political Sexuality in Machiavelli

Chapter:
(p.151) Medusa and the Madonna of Forlì
Source:
In Dante's Wake
Author(s):

John Freccero

, Danielle Callegari, Melissa Swain
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823264278.003.0008

This chapter examines the work of Machiavelli. It identifies a trace of “political theology” that persists in the work of so great a demythologizer: the myth of the state as a political body. It is true that the corporate metaphor pervades our languages, however vestigial the concept of the “body politic” may be. We are scarcely conscious of the original physical sense of the word “member,” just as the words “head” or “chief” in the context of social organization no longer seem figurative. In political rhetoric, the dormant figure is revived when necessary to persuade individual “members” to act against their self-interest for the good of the “head.” The chapter considers Machiavelli's speculative use of the figure to lend a certain vitality to the political entities to which he applies it. The “state” described by such a corporate metaphor can no longer be thought of as a passive object, but assumes by implication a separate identity. Moreover, the body is gendered: The state or the realm is like a spouse to the ruler who possesses her. It is shown that because of the metaphor of the state as female, there is in Machiavelli's work a certain homology between sexual politics and political sexuality.

Keywords:   Machiavelli, political theology, dormant figure, political body, state, corporate metaphor, political sexuality, sexual politics

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