Medieval Monstrosity and the Female Body by Sarah Alison Miller

By Sarah Alison Miller

The medieval monster is a slippery build, and its referents comprise a number non secular, racial, and corporeal aberrations. during this examine, Miller argues that one incarnation of monstrosity within the center Ages—the girl body—exists in distinctive relation to medieval teratology insofar because it resists the frequent marginalization that outlined so much different colossal teams within the center a long time. even though medieval maps positioned the titanic races at the far-off margins of the civilized global, the massive girl physique took the shape of mom, sister, spouse, and daughter. It was once, as a result, pervasive, proximate, and helpful on social, sexual, and reproductive grounds. Miller considers a number of major texts representing authoritative discourses on lady monstrosity within the heart a while: the Pseudo-Ovidian poem, De vetula (The previous Woman); a treatise on human iteration erroneously attributed to Albert the good, De secretis mulierum (On the secrets and techniques of Women), and Julian of Norwich’s Showings. via comparative research, Miller grapples with the monster’s semantic flexibility whereas at the same time training a composite photo of late-medieval lady monstrosity whose positive aspects are solid adequate to outline. even if this physique is discursively built as an Ovidian physique, a medicalized physique, or a paranormal physique, its corporeal limitations fail to shape thoroughly: it's a physique out of bounds.

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109 Such tactics are sure to free you from lovesick urges for further contact. To force the eyes to look when she “opens her body” is to inoculate oneself to the infectious agent. The orifices and internal material of the female body are abject: they must be hidden in order for men to find the female body attractive; but they also pose a threat to the soundness of the male body. In this context, it is relevant that the ultimate abject female body in De vetula, the cursed old woman’s body, is sick.

When we ask, moreover, what is contained in this term “misogyny,” or “culture,” or “Ovidian,” we quickly find that such categories are internally unstable, and thus problematic for structuring answers to these questions. With those caveats in mind, however, we can look into (classical) Ovidian and medieval representations of old age and old women to explore how Pseudo-Ovid draws from and contributes to this motif. We can consider how De vetula draws from the Ovidian corpus, and how the “medieval” Ovid shapes this reception.

120 Add to this his assurances that the bodies of older women are “useful” fields, and an alternative image of the older female body than the one we find in De vetula begins to emerge. Experience (usus) has made the older woman good in bed: Add the fact that their knowledge of their business is greater. And they have experience [usus] which alone makes them skilled. They pay back the losses of the years with their elegance/cleanliness [munditiis] and take care that they not seem like old women. And, according to your wishes, they make love in a thousand positions.

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