Jessica Wong is a 2018-2019 CREV Faculty Fellow

Posted: November 2, 2018

Jessica Wong, Purity: The Visual Logic of Gender, Race, and the Sacred Social Body; Or, The Disorderly Woman and Other Such Nonsense 

Women’s bodies and bodily functions have long been read as problematic. This project examines how past and present depictions of women as disorderly, erratic, and impure can be analyzed through the framework of the holy icon and in relation to modern western society’s quest for identification with the sacred. Themes of purity are native to Christianity and its older brother, Judaism. However, with the rise of icon theology and the visual logic that accompanies it, bodies have come to function as a means of discerning one’s status of purity and, therefore, belonging. Purity, in its application, has been compromised. Beginning with the designation of the pure from the impure within the medieval discourse surrounding icon theology, it becomes clear what female disorderliness has in common with the spiritual corruption of the Jew. The Jew and the woman suffer the same fate, for they both insufficiently embody God’s holy order. They are both anti-iconic. It is this same anti-iconic, disorderly status that persists in how women are perceived and treated within the modern western context today.