The setting of the last of this year's lunch-time talks of the Chester Literary Festival was the splendid council room of Chester's town hall (pictured after the event). The topic was one I believe had been never discussed there before in its long history: The Vagina - a literary and cultural history.
Emma Rees, a senior lecturer in the English department at the university of Chester, felt moved to consider the apparent taboo surrounding female human genitalia after the denial in a guidebook of what she was seeing in Kilpeck Church: namely the Sheela-na-Gig corbel
. I'd not heard of the Sheela-na-Gig before, but there are examples of these odd little gargoyle-type sculptures throughout Europe - no doubt come from a less prudish time than ours.
Emma described how the title of her book
was in some ways unsatisfactory since it described just part of the female genitalia rather than the whole, but that she was unable to come up with anything better because the alternatives are either considered obscene or ridiculous. In her book she examines the paradox of female genitalia through five fields of artistic expression: literature, film, TV, visual and performance art. I am looking forward to reading this - just as soon as I have finished the excellent Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation.