Leah DeVun's The Shape of Sex: Nonbinary Gender from Genesis to the Renaissance offers a critical new study on the premodern (200–1400 CE) occupation with theorizing, categorizing, and representing bodies that did not conform to a given period's normative definitions of sex and gender. DeVun (pronoun: they) convincingly argues that, far from a fringe interest reserved for obscure theorists, discussions of what constituted a nonbinary body, and even a “human” body, were at the fore of the larger debate over what separated humans from “other” beings. This discourse often employed the concept of the nonbinary figure, or “hermaphrodite,” as period sources called it, to distinguish the “ideal” human—namely, the white European Christian—from figures or ideas that strayed from this type, including the aligning of hermaphrodites with “others,” such as racialized monsters, Jews, and intersex individuals.

The consequences of these categories were far-reaching: they not only informed the textual and visual...

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