Violent Fluids: Feminist Histories of Blood

Speakers: Dr Hetta Howes (City, University of London) and Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik (University of St Andrews)

How have images of blood shaped histories of gender from medieval manuscripts to contemporary art? The Courtauld’s Gender & Sexuality Research Group welcome Dr Hetta Howes (City University of London) and Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik (St Andrews) to speak about their research into the bodily fluid (followed by a Q&A).

Organised by Edwin Coomasaru (The Courtauld) and Rachel Warriner (The Courtauld) 

‘And there came forth blood and water’: Fluid Reflections on Medieval Devotion  

Blood is at the heart of late-medieval devotion. Crucifixion, historically, is not a bloody death, and the Gospel only makes reference to blood twice in reference to the Passion; however, medieval artistic depictions and written accounts of Christ’s torture and death are overflowing with this potent fluid. This talk will consider the resonance of blood in a number of late-medieval devotional texts, particularly those addressed to women, and explore what happens when it is imaginatively paired with another, equally resonant fluid in medieval religious thought: water.  

‘Blood Coming Out of Her Whatever’: Sarah Levy’s Menstrual Portrait of Trump 

In the middle of the 2015 battle for the US Presidential nomination, then-potential candidate Donald Trump remarked that Fox News anchor Meghan Kelly was untrustworthy as she had ‘blood coming out of her whatever’. This was supposed to connote that Kelly, and women more generally, are not reliable when menstruating. In response, artist Sarah Levy painted Trump with her own menstrual blood and created the portrait Bloody Trump (Whatever). This paper considers the background of the creation for this artwork, the technical and creative skills on display in the portrait, and the subsequent political, activist, and media interest in the work. Drawing on visual analysis, communication with the artist, and critical feminist theory, this paper argues that Bloody Trump (Whatever) is a key artwork from the Trump era.  

Dr Hetta Howes is a lecturer in medieval literature at City, University of London. Interested in fluid imagery and its manifestation in religious writings for women, she has published on the relationship between blood and shame in a medieval Passion lyric, on the imagery of water in Aelred of Rievaulx’s treatise for an anchoress, and on new approaches to medieval water studies. She is currently working on a monograph based on her doctoral research, tentatively entitled Transformative Waters, forthcoming with Boydell and BrewerCommitted to public engagement, and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker (2017), she is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and a presenter for the BBC/AHRC New Thinking podcast.  

Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, working on the project ‘The Painters Are In: A Visual History of Menstruation since 1970’. From 2019-2020 she was PI on the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘The UK Menstruation Research Network’. Her book, Cash Flow: The Business of Menstruation since 1970, is forthcoming with UCL Press in 2021. 


5:00pm, 1 Jul 2020

Booking Essential