The Ends of the Body:
Identity and Community in Medieval Culture



Drawing on Arabic, English, French, Irish, Latin and Spanish sources, the essays share a focus on the body’s productive capacity – whether expressed through the flesh’s materiality, or through its role in performing meaning.

The collection is divided into four clusters. ‘Foundations’ traces the use of physical remnants of the body in the form of relics or memorial monuments that replicate the form of the body as foundational in communal structures; ‘Performing the Body’ focuses on the ways in which the individual body functions as the medium through which the social body is maintained; ‘Bodily Rhetoric’ explores the poetic linkage of body and meaning; and ‘Material Bodies’ engages with the processes of corporeal being, ranging from the energetic flow of humoural liquids to the decay of the flesh.

Together, the essays provide new perspectives on the centrality of the medieval body and underscore the vitality of this rich field of study.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Limits and Teleology: The Many Ends of the Body
Suzanne Conklin Akbari

Part One: Foundations

Books, Bodies, and Bones: Hilduin of St-Denis and the Relics of St Dionysius
Anna Taylor

Death Is Not the End: The Encounter of the Three Living and the Three Dead in the Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian
Christine Kralik

The Good Death of Richard Whittington: Corpse and Corporation
Amy Appleford

Part Two: Bodily Rhetoric

An Epic Incarnation of Salvation: The Function of the Body in the Eupolemius
Sylvia Parsons

Losing Face: Heroic Discourse and Inscription in Flesh in Scéla Mucce Meic Dathó
Sarah Sheehan

The Dazzling Sword of Language: Masculinity and Persuasion in Classical and Medieval Rhetoric
Jill Ross

Part Three: Performing the Body

Amputating the Traitor: Healing the Social Body in Public Executions for Treason in Late Medieval England
Danielle M. Westerhof

‘A Defect of the Mind or Body’: Impotence and Sexuality in Medieval Theology and Canon Law
Catherine Rider

Bodily Performances and Body Talk in Medieval Islamic Preaching
Linda G. Jones

Part Four: Material Body

The Leprous Body in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Rouen: Perceptions and Responses
Elma Brenner

The Feminine Flesh in the Disputacione betwyx the Body and Wormes
Wendy A. Matlock

Death as Metamorphosis in the Devotional and Political Allegory of Christine de Pizan
Suzanne Conklin Akbari

Available from University of Toronto Press.


“[This Book] examines living, dying, brawling, dismembered, and adored bodies, carefully thinking about these highly specific medieval bodies through medieval contexts (bureaucratic, medical, theological, canonical, etc.).”

—Masha Raskolnikov, JEGP, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“The Ends of the Body in an impressive collection … The geographical, linguistic, and temporal diversity on display in the volume ensures that while not every chapter may be of immediate use to every scholar, the collection will find broad readership among scholars of medieval art, literature, history, and culture.”

—David K. COley, University of Toronto Quarterly

“The volume may have had its origins in a 2006 conference, but presents here as a fresh analysis of the medieval body in its material and textual incarnations — its individual chapters uniformly well written, contemporary in approach, and wide‐ranging in subject matter.”'

—Juanita Feros Ruys, Journal of Religious History