Indiscriminate Bodies: The Old French Fabliaux in Relation to Thirteenth-Century Medical and Religious Cultures

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Indiscriminate Bodies: The Old French Fabliaux in Relation to Thirteenth-Century Medical and Religious Cultures

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Title: Indiscriminate Bodies: The Old French Fabliaux in Relation to Thirteenth-Century Medical and Religious Cultures
Author: Goyette, Stefanie Anne
Citation: Goyette, Stefanie Anne. 2012. Indiscriminate Bodies: The Old French Fabliaux in Relation to Thirteenth-Century Medical and Religious Cultures. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines representations of the body in the Old French fabliaux in order to elucidate these stories’ philosophy (or philosophies) of language and their relationship to religious, medical, and dietetic cultures. An exploration of contemporary discourses referenced in the fabliaux – moral discourses around sex and food, medical and dietetic theories concerning food and animals, and rituals and rites surrounding the living and dying body – demonstrates how these elements shape narrative structure, characters, key objects, and décor. The fabliaux exhibit bodies founded by and coextensive with language, which, particularly in the form of speech, is simultaneously a function of the body. This dissertation shows the fabliaux to be profoundly anchored in the material world, but also aware that the physical and material are affected by language, and subject to transformation by the greater context of twelfth-, thirteenth-, and early fourteenth-century literature in its vernacular and Latin, secular and religious forms. The first chapter provides a critical history of the major questions in fabliaux scholarship through the 1980s, when the field began to undergo a number of important changes. The first part of Chapter 2 pursues the physical body in the fabliaux through pleasures, particularly the sexual and alimentary, while arguing that the stories respond to outside discourses about physical behavior, and that sensual or carnal pleasures and those of language coexist. The second section traces the relationship of spaces – social and domestic, permitted and forbidden – to morality. Analysis of the localization of the body in space indicates that space is essential to the construction of bodies, and may even determine (the perception of) guilt or innocence. The third chapter demonstrates that the humor of many fabliaux depends on anxieties concerning the spatial incursions of death, which mirror the visitations of outside texts. Miracles and superstitions constitute the focus of the fourth chapter, which examines the exploitation of supernatural events by the fabliaux’ human actors. The final chapter shows the importance of dysphemism and polysemy, of audience interpretation, and of the potential dangers of misinterpretation when texts become bodies and bodies become texts.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10344926
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