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Medieval Identity Machines

Jeffrey J. Cohen
Volume: 35
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Identity Machines
    Book Description:

    In Medieval Identity Machines, Jeffrey J. Cohen examines the messiness, permeability, and perversity of medieval bodies, arguing that human identity always exceeds the limits of the flesh. Combining critical theory with a rigorous reading of medieval texts, Cohen asks if the category “human” isn’t too small to contain the multiplicity of identities._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9398-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Possible Bodies
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    We know its contours from biology textbooks, from the charts in the doctor’s office and health reports, from Leonardo da Vinci’s circumscription of its energetic form within the boundaries of a circle, from forensic outlines that trace the murdered dead. The human body consists, simply enough, of a torso to which are attached a head, two arms, and two legs. We have glimpsed this familiar body’s insides through numerous technologies of visibility: anatomical diagrams, x-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging, fiber-optic scopes. We have viewed the organs in all their alien variety, synapses crackling their electrochemical language, architectural flourishes of bone,...

  5. 1 Time’s Machines
    (pp. 1-34)

    Although the adjective “exciting” is not often linked to the noun “medieval studies” in the popular imagination, these are in fact invigorating times in the field. Anyone who has kept abreast of the recent proliferation in journal articles, edited collections, and monographs surely recognizes that as a discipline medieval studies is critically engaged in a process of self-reinvention. A geography that had begun to seem too familiar feels somehow new, capable of inspiring that wonder(admiratio)so prized by medieval writers themselves.¹ Yet however occupied medievalists have been with rethinking interpretive practices andidées reçues,we have yet to undertake...

  6. 2 Chevalerie
    (pp. 35-77)

    Allen J. Frantzen is best known for his scholarly work on Anglo-Saxon penitentials, rigorous investigations of the distant history of the human body and its ecclesiastical regulation. Surprisingly, his bookBefore the Closet: Same-Sex Love from Beowulf to Angels in Americacloses with a poeticized account of his own body’s past. Frantzen’s eloquent depiction of an adolescent awakening to selfhood and to pleasure is worth quoting at length:

    I remember another night one summer on the farm when I was in high school. For some reason, I was home alone, a rare event; I seldom felt unwatched. The moon was...

  7. 3 Masoch/Lancelotism
    (pp. 78-115)

    The past few years have seen a widespread fascination with male masochism and a consequent multiplication of scholarly studies devoted to its analysis, prompting Michael Uebel to argue that “masochism constitutes the deep grammar of modern cultural manhood.”¹ Uebel finds in cyberporn the ultimate figuration of masochism in modern man, arguing that it “offers nothing less than a fantasy scene for self-flagellation, wherein men, having internalized, however partially or imperfectly, feminist modes of recognition, try to defeat their own aggressive impulses” (“Toward a Symptomatology,” 11). When networked subjectivities meet the pornucopia of the World Wide Web, it seems, the nonmajoritarian...

  8. 4 The Solitude of Guthlac
    (pp. 116-153)

    In “I, Pierre Rivière . . .” Michel Foucault analyzed thevitaof an avowed murderer who aspired to be a saint. This chapter explores a Mercian saint who was from another point of view a murderer, excavating a possible body that came into being on an island of dispersed identity, an island that would not yet allow its southern and eastern expanses a harmonization into “England.” In detailing the battles of a militant recluse against a troop of demons, the Latin and Old English lives of Saint Guthlac promote an ascesis of sacred individuation. These legends construct a singular...

  9. 5 The Becoming-Liquid of Margery Kempe
    (pp. 154-187)

    Margery Kempe was born in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, c. 1373, and died around 1440. The daughter of the successful politician John Brunham, she married a man who was not her economic equal (she eventually settled John Kempe’s debts in return for a chaste marriage). She bore fourteen children. Probably composed in the late 1430s, herBookwas thought lost until the discovery of the Mount Grace manuscript (now London, British Library, Add. MS 61823) by Colonel William Erdeswick Ignatius Butler-Bowden in 1934. These bare facts about Margery Kempe are some of the few uncontroversial statements that can be made pertaining...

  10. 6 On Saracen Enjoyment
    (pp. 188-221)

    Because she writes in universalizing terms, feminist and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva has been dismissed as an essentializing throwback to her Parisian predecessors, the existentialists led by Jean-Paul Sartre, with their Big Pronouncements onla condition humaine.¹ InStrangers to Ourselves (Étrangers à Nous-Mêmes)—the title of which even cites Albert Camus—Kristeva conducts a poetical investigation into the place of the Other, arguing that a painful self-estrangement suffusesallhuman subjectivity.² Because in this formulation a foundational otherness is everywhere, the counterargument goes, it is nowhere. I must admit to never having understood the logic of this kind of dismissal,...

  11. POSTSCRIPT: Possible Futures
    (pp. 222-224)

    The chapters of this book assumed their final forms by the summer of 2001. Living and working in Washington DC, it is difficult not to feel that the world has suddenly and profoundly changed since that time. My office is only a few blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and I was on campus when the events of September 11 occurred. Upon entering the administrative building where I had an early meeting, I saw the footage on a TV turned to CNN of a plane embedded in the World Trade Center, and thought it a horrible accident. Not long afterwards we...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 225-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-326)
  14. Index
    (pp. 327-336)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-337)