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Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England

Barbara A. Hanawalt
David Wallace
Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsd71
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  • Book Info
    Bodies and Disciplines
    Book Description:

    Centered on practices of the body-human bodies, the “body politic”-Bodies and Disciplines considers a fascinating and largely uncanonical group of texts, as well as public dramas, rituals, and spectacles, from multidisciplinary perspectives. The result is a volume that incorporates insights from history, literature, medieval studies, and critical theory, drawing from the strengths of each discipline to illuminate a relatively little-studied period. Contributors: Sarah Beckwith, Rita Copeland, Gail McMurray Gibson, Ralph Hanna III, Felicity Heal, Ruth Mazo Karras, Seth Lerer, Marjorie K. McIntosh, Miri Rubin, Paul Strohm.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8699-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Barbara A. Hanawalt and David Wallance

    The metaphor of “intersections” or crossroads as a model of interdisciplinary work boldly offers itself to humorous critique (an offer generously accepted by the first and last essays in this volume): unfortunate things can happen at intersections. This metaphor does, however, represent measurable progress over the introduction to the Center for Medieval Studies’ predecessor volume,Chaucer’s England: Literature in Historical Context,which spoke of territory raids and the carrying off of “facts” from archives or “qualitative evidence” from literary sources. Not only more civilized (in moving us from forest pathways to paved roads and a market economy), the intersections metaphor...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Brewing Trouble On Literature and History—and Alewives
    (pp. 1-18)
    Ralph Hanna III

    This essay places both its author and his subjects in a position of danger. For whatever the synergies “intersections” may provide, there are concomitant dangers—collisions and accidents, often of the mortal variety. Surveys always show, for example, that more pileups occur at the junctures of southern California freeways than occur in all the other miles they traverse. I put myself in such peril through my efforts to mediate between two disciplines. Similarly, my subject—alewives and taverns—defines an intersection both social and discursive, one potentially fraught with problems.

    I began this chapter in what I thought was a...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Body, Whole and Vulnerable, in Fifteenth-Century England
    (pp. 19-28)
    Miri Rubin

    As so many inherited grounding categories of historical explanation have been moved by the winds of plurality and difference, sweet winds whose effect has been welcome and fresh, historians and literary critics have returned to the body as a secure site of certainty and truth, as a grounding place for that which might connect people across their many differences.¹ We can no longer pretend that the world is anything but “messy,”² that motivation, self-understanding, aspirations, and desires are constructed in persons, whose consciousness is made of clusters of identifications, acting within and reacting to the salient narratives of their times....

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Representyd now in yower syght”: The Culture of Spectatorship in Late- Fifteenth-Century England
    (pp. 29-62)
    Seth Lerer

    Sometime during the mid-1470s, the corporation of the town of Lydd, in Kent, commissioned the transcription of their Customall, or custom book, the codified account of legal and community practices drawn from the inheritance of English customary law. In addition to the other records of the corporation—the chamberlain’s books and the court books that were kept from the mid-fourteenth through the sixteenth century—this Customall offers a detailed picture of late medieval town life in both its public and its private ways.¹ Documents such as this one have long been the purview of social historians, from the great collections...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Ritual, Theater, and Social Space in the York Corpus Christi Cycle
    (pp. 63-86)
    Sarah Beckwith

    Christianity provides in the condensed symbolic economy of the passion an image of the body that converts the suffering of one individual into the redemption of the world.¹ In the passion and resurrection sequences of the York Corpus Christi cycle, that symbol that clerical culture had sought to establish as hegemonic (universal, yet exclusive to them through their rights of mediation and officiation)—Christ’s body in the host—is subject to an inventive, brutal, and alarming series of reworkings.² The passion sequence gradually comes to subsume the theatrical and ritual energies of the city of York, as over the course...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Finding Language for Misconduct: Jurors in Fifteenth-Century Local Courts
    (pp. 87-122)
    Marjone K. Mclntosh

    During the fifteenth century, the heads of established families in many English market towns and villages expressed growing concern with certain forms of social misconduct. Some actions appeared to local leaders to threaten the social peace and concord of their communities; issues like malicious gossip and eavesdropping were particularly troublesome during the first half of the century. By around 1460 attention was shifting to actions that violated good governance and control, such as sexual misdeeds or operating a rowdy alehouse. Problems associated with poverty and a refusal to labor likewise mounted in the later fifteenth century. Local leaders expressed their...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Two Models, Two Standards: Moral Teaching and Sexual Mores
    (pp. 123-138)
    Ruth Mazo Karras

    During the Middle Ages, although a clearly articulated set of official teachings stipulated what sexual behavior was permitted and what was forbidden, not everyone followed it. In addition, even if standards of sexual morality were the same for both sexes, men could much more easily flout them without risking punishment or opprobrium. These truisms tell us little that is specific about late medieval England. Yet the intersection of these two propositions does reveal a good deal about the degree to which believers internalized the teachings of the church. Both didactic literature and court records from the fifteenth century indicate that...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Blessing from Sun and Moon: Churching as Women’s Theater
    (pp. 139-154)
    Gail McMurray Gibson

    After her miraculous and inviolate childbirth, the Virgin Mary remained at the Bethlehem manger for forty days: thus did theMeditationes vitae Christiinstruct the unnamed nun (a Poor Clare) for whom the famously influential devotional text was first penned in the latter part of the thirteenth century. Mary waited humbly “as though she were like any other woman of her people and the boy Jesus an impure human who must observe the law,” and so, too, must the pious, attending female reader wait those forty days of Mary’s confinement, for as the author of theMeditationesurged, “Every faithful...

  12. CHAPTER 8 “The Childe of Bristowe” and the Making of Middle-Class Adolescence
    (pp. 155-178)
    Barbara A. Hanawalt

    The behavior of middle-class youth came to prominence in the literature, laws, court cases, guild regulations, and thinking of fifteenth-century English society in an obsessive way uncharacteristic of preceding centuries.¹ Books of advice for youth aspiring to make their way up the social ladder proliferated in manuscript form and spread even more with the invention of printing. Among the dominant metaphors were the relationship of the young to the old, the apprentice to the master, the uncultivated to the cultivated. The process of forming a concept of a societal ideal of middle-class adolescent behavior was, as Norbert Elias described, one...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Reciprocity and Exchange in the Late Medieval Household
    (pp. 179-198)
    Felicity Heal

    The great household in late medieval England was the principal focus not only of elite consumption but also of social exchange. Noble households modeled themselves upon the greatest establishment of all, the royal court—that “new house of houses principal of England” as theBlack Bookof Edward IV called it. The royal household was identified as the heart of the realm, embodying its virtue and reputation: in 1485 Henry VII’s parliament, passing the Act of Resumption, insisted, “Your Honorable Houshold ... must be kept and borne Worshipfully and Honorably, as it accordeth to the Honour of your Estate and...

  14. CHAPTER 10 William Thorpe and His Lollard Community: Intellectual Labor and the Representation of Dissent
    (pp. 199-222)
    Rita Copeland

    This chapter explores how a politically persuasive model of dissenting identity is produced through an intersection of historical and literary representations. It considers the role of professional intellectuals as articulate participants in social resistance, and how, as intellectuals, they can occupy the problematic space that official legal structures make for self-representation among dissenters. For the history of Lollardy these are especially difficult questions, because we must not only discover adequate historical grounds for recognizing medieval discourses of dissent, but also examine in a historically sensitive way the complex and often contradictory positions from which dissenters speak. Contemporary work in postcolonial...

  15. Afterword: What Happens at Intersections?
    (pp. 223-232)
    Paul Strohm

    Ralph Hanna is right about our common contemporary experience when he describes intersections as places of collision and danger. An alternative understanding—congenial to the centuries covered by this volume even if only latently available today—would treat the intersection as acanefour.a crossroad or market square, a place where roads converge and persons with different origins and destinations tarry for purposes of acquaintance and exchange. This notion of the crossroad opens a possibility not of fast transit but of potential commingling, in which persons at least temporarily occupy and enjoy the same space. As a crossroad, marked by...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 233-234)
  17. Index
    (pp. 235-242)