Clitorian Reading Room

Droste Festival 2019
Center for Literature, Münster

Katharina Merten & Thea Reifler
in collaboration with Bound by Ceca (chairs in the blue room), Ethan Folk & Paula Hans (voices)

photos: Sabrina Richmann


Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and the Clitorian Age

The clitoris is the only organ in the human body that has continuously evolved over five million years with the singular purpose of developing greater feeling. It serves no other bodily function than to feel. Anatomically speaking, the penis and clitoris are made of the same erectile tissue. In the Clitorian Age, the clitoris is considered to be the sensory center of every human being, and this center can be more hidden or exposed depending on the individual body. The Clitorian Age sees beyond a binary conception of genitals, embracing an anatomical spectrum that is non-synonymous with gender.

References to the role of the clitoris in sensations of pleasure by anticendancts of the Clitorian Age can be found as early as the 16th century. However, these textual accounts were not culturally well-received and largely lost or forgotten. The hidden extent of the clitoris inside of the body was only fully described and the information proliferated in 1844 by the German anatomist Geog Ludwig Kobelt. Although this anotomical clitorial information became public during Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's lifetime, in prior years to its publication she had already conversed with her intellectual companions and lovers about a presumed poetic-sensitive "mesh." Those secret correspondences were only recently discovered.

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff used the clitoris as a figure of thought and understood it to be central to the expression of “nature-bound” sensuality. Based on this concept, she developed body-related methods for writing and reading poetic texts, thereby coining the term "cliterature". In her legendary "Clitorian Reading Room," she used to sit on a chair with an opening in the seat to write, edit, and recite her poetry. Whether or not one of her companions “assisted” from below, can only be speculated today.

After a brief lull in the twentieth century - including unfortunate setbacks such as the sudden loss of the clitoris’ entry in the 1938 medical standard work "Grays Anatomy” - the rise of the clitoris resumed in the 21st century. In 1998, the urologist Dr. Helen O'Connell was the first to use magnetic resonance imaging to scan the nerves of this sensitive organ. The first 3D sonography of the excited clitoris was published in 2009 by Dr. Odile Buisson and Dr. Pierre Foldès. Since the unexpected historic breakthrough of 2020, the triumphant advance of the Clitorian Age can no longer be stopped. The hidden, widely branched and highly sensitive structure of the clitoris has become the eponymous metaphor for an age in which complexity, diversity, inconsistency, opacity, intuition and feeling, are of highest value.
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