Faculty of Humanities Book of the Year Award

Posted on 10th March 2014

Dr Emma Rees has been awarded The Faculty of Humanities Book of the Year Award for her book The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History.

Professor Rob Warner and Dr Emma Rees
Professor Rob Warner and Dr Emma Rees
This has been a book of immense ambition, energy and scope, which has garnered a breadth of attention in the media far beyond the reach of the vast majority of academic tomes.
Professor Rob Warner, Executive Dean of Humanities.

From South Park to Kathy Acker, and from Lars Von Trier to Sex and the City, women’s sexual organs are demonized. Rees traces the fascinating evolution of this demonization, considering how calling the ‘c-word’ obscene both legitimates and perpetuates the fractured identities of women globally. Emma Rees demonstrates how writers, artists, and filmmakers contend with the dilemma of the vagina’s puzzlingly ‘covert visibility’.


The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History examines the paradox of female genitalia through five fields of artistic expression: literature, film, TV, visual, and performance art.

Rees focuses on the paradox of what is termed the ‘covert visibility’ of the vagina and on its monstrous manifestations. That is, what happens when the female body refuses to be pathologized, eroticized, or rendered subordinate to the will or intention of another? Common, and often offensive, slang terms for the vagina can be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the reality of women’s lived sexual experiences such that we don’t ‘look’ at the vagina itself – slang offers a convenient distraction to something so taboo. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History is an important contribution to the ongoing debate in understanding the feminine identity

Dr Rees has been interviewed by Jenni Murray about her book on Woman's Hour and on Newstalk in Ireland. Her book has been reviewed in various publications and online. It was Times Higher Book of the Week (August 2013) and has been featured in the following: The Independent on Sunday (25.08.13); The New Statesman (29.08.13); Literary Review (October 2013); Fanny Ireland (04.11.13); Publishers' Weekly; and Library Journal.