Conceptions of milk (and 'milking') in seventeenth-century England

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis examines perceptions of milk in the seventeenth century in two unique ways. Firstly, it considers milk the substance from a posthumanist standpoint that studies the perceived links between both human and animal lactation. Secondly, it examines how 'milk' was conceived of as semen and 'milking' as its ejaculation, relating this to how masculinity was both lauded and threatened in the seventeenth century.;This thesis pursues how animals and humans were believed to be interconnected through their milk, particularly focussing upon how motherhood was thought to be a trait that all lactating females shared. It then discusses how these views were endangered in the same century, reflected through an alteration of language that indicated an ongoing separation of terms and concepts that were once applied to both humans and animals.;The remainder of this thesis is given over to an analysis of sexual 'milk' and 'milking', particularly in the works of William Shakespeare, as well as Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson. It relates this to both male and female lactation, focussing upon how seminal 'milk' and its ejaculation reflected superior and anxious notions of masculinity. Thus, it will argue that conceptions of femininity and animality cannot be escaped when discussing milk.
Date of Award20 Feb 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde

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