In this wide-ranging conversation, David Serlin (University of California, San Diego) and Roland Betancourt (University of California, Irvine) discuss questions of sexual consent and sexual violence in the visual culture of early Christian art as inspired by Betancourt’s recent book, Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (2020). Drawing on rare manuscripts and other objects of worship from institutional archives, Betancourt analyzes and contextualizes numerous Byzantine visual texts featuring often confounding representations of sexual acts or gendered behavior that later Christian interpreters would treat as conventional or settled. For Betancourt, early Christian authors and artists were far more open to troubling and experimenting with depictions of sexual and gendered narratives than many medievalists (and, importantly, non-medievalists) have been trained to see.

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