Micrologus. Natura, scienze e società medievali / Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies 20 (2012)

Micrologus. Natura, scienze e società medievali / Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies 20 (2012).
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Estremità e escrescenze dei corpi / Extremities and Excrescences of the Body

Hrsg. v.
Agostino Paravicini Bagliani
S. 539
€ 72,00
Herausgeber d. Zeitschrift
Agostino Paravicini Bagliani
Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino Certosa del Galluzzo I-50124 Firenze tel. +39.055.2048501/2049749 fax. +39.055.2320423 e-mail: <agostino.paravicini@unil.ch> <segreteria.sismel@sismelfirenze.it>

Dieser 20. Band der Zeitschrift Micrologus. Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies, ediert von der SISMEL, Florenz (http://www.sismelfirenze.it) ist, wie viele früheren Bände, einem Thema der Geschichte des Körpers gewidmet, in einer transversalen, interdisziplinären Perspektive, von der Antike bis zur Moderne. Thema dieses Bandes sind Protuberanzen und Extremitäten des Körpers, die auf den ersten Blick als marginal und sekundär erscheinen könnten, sich aber immer als zentral erweisen, was die Bildung einer Identität (und oder der Exklusion) angeht. Die 20 Beiträge gehören mehreren Disziplingattungen, von der Literatur- zur Kunstgeschichte und fundieren auf primären Analysen von Text und Bild.


Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Introduction, S. VII-XII

Michel Pastoureau, Les cornes, les poils, les oreilles et la queue. Se déguiser en animal dans l’Occident médiéval, 3-24.

The hostility of the Christian Church towards disguise is of long duration. From the Fathers of the Church to the great Protestant Reformers the speech is univocal: disguise is at the same time a deception, a disorder and an offence to God. Certain disguises, however, are much more condemnable than others; they consist in disguising oneself a an animal. The extremities of the body ‘make’ the animality. That is why, at war or in a tournament, the knights of the feudal era break the interdictions of the Church, disguise themselves as wild animals or adorn their helmets with horns and protuberances, which help them acquire the strength of the animal before going to the battle.

Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, Les corps sans fins. Extensions animales et végétales les marges de la représentation (XIII e-XIVe siècle), S. 25-42.

The increasing moralisation during the twelfth century, marked by the figure of the snake of temptation. In contrast, the various forms of vegetal extensions, in both Romanesque statuary and the Gothic initials, blur the boundaries of the body and express in an ornemental and a performative way, the continuity of the created world.

Danielle Bohler, Morphologies humaines au chaos: poils, cornes et appendices dans la litterature narrative et normative du Moyen Âge, S. 43-61.

The exploration through several narrative systems (both didactic and non didactic) allows us to observe the process of protuberances. In the form of an abundant hairiness, of horns and tails, whose protuberance is produced by extreme elegance; in the form, finally, of a proliferation of sexual genders, rivaling the sexed distribution of the Genesis book, the body finds itself deprived of its order, torn from common nature, a risky stage of transition. Yet the narrative logic guarantees a return to order: the man, who became wild and hairy, provided with immoderate excrescences, becomes apparently civilized again through a ritual of polishing; women, waving horns and tails under the watchful eye of the preacher, may return to the desired morphology by submitting to the norm of folding. The imaginary of protuberance is full of as a starting point of aberrant behaviours and as a sure term of a happy inclusion within the communitarian space, as long as a symbolic return to order.

Corrado Bologna, Bernoccoli e altre protuberanze spirituali, S. 63-86.

A relationship between the physical protuberances and the spiritual ones is attested by some famous and emblematic cases like Gian Battista Vico and Tommaso Campanella’s autobiographies: the latter invented the nom de plume of Settimontano Squilla (Sevenmountain Rings), with which he signed his philosophical poems, playing on his surname and his seven bumps – that, allegorizing, he described as the seven mounts or the seven pillars of the Wisdom rising prophetically on his head-universe. Like the philosophers, the artists too sometimes represent the aerial dynamism of their spirit through the image of a spiritual protuberance.

Francesco Santi, Mantelli, penne e astuti piumati. Coprire le protuberanze ed esibirle nella storia del potere (sec. XII-XVI), S. 87-108.

The mantle is an essential symbol of power from sources of sec. XII (Benevento Falcone, Alessandro Telese); alternative to the hairy body, marked by bumps. From here the study introduce the theme of the feather, as a major bump, which grows on the body of those who wrongly took over the mantle (Buile Shuibhne). The body feathers, however, has a story: the feather becomes the mantle of one who turns to a new power, marked by technology and natural science.

Francesca Sivo, Corpus infame, S. 109-190.

Body represents a peculiar part of that complex structure where the opposition fama/infamia contributes to define the identity of individuals as well as of social groups, to start integration-belonging as well as exclusion processes, thus contributing to the balance of social cohesion and stability. This paper aims to analyze several abstracts from works of classic as well as Middle-age, belonging to different literary registers, where some peculiarly negative physical features dealing with descriptio turpitudinis end up in becoming symbols of vitia of the human soul. The portraits of ugly and misshapen characters – starting from their physical ‘excesses’ up to the grimaces forever taken by their bodies – end up in symbolizing the most despicable features of their souls, thus leading the reader/spectator to laugh in order to defeat every kind of fear and to leave place to a realistic and ‘serious’ knowledge of people and things.

Carlos F. Clamote Carreto, Anatomie de la différence. Le corps déréglé et les outrances de l’écriture épique (XIIe-XIIIe siècles), S. 191-221.

In a Universe in which aesthetic and moral perfection were often under the sign of bodily symmetry and proportion, all physical malformation is the living witness to a fail, conscious or unconscious, shamefully obvious or hidden under the most secret of secrecies, thereby causing a semiological psychosis which threatens and defies both the discourse and the social cultural and symbolic order for which the discourse itself is supposed to represent.

Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, Enflures et boursouflures. L’obésité au Moyen Âge, S. 223-238.

Obesity is known by the doctors since the XIIth century and since then particular treatments have been presented such as: bathing, specific food diets with specific consumption quantity, physical exercises prescribed after medical examinatiobn. Yet, an ancient moralizing discourse, revived in the XVth century, stressed the need of care. Obesity, for instance, war represented as dangerous for pregnant women themselves as well as for their babies. Obesity was also seen as a factor that could cause intellectual or spiritual incapacity.

Pierre Savy, Les attributs chimériques de peuples réels. Queue des Anglais et queue des Juifs au Moyen Âge et à l’époque moderne, S. 239-256.

Surprisingly, during the Middle Ages and Early modern period the English and the Jews were sometimes believed to have tails. But unlike ‘exotic’ and sometimes unreal nations who were commonly given various chimerical and monstrous features, the English and the Jews were of course real nations that were present in the West. The meanings of these beliefs are significantly different: the phrase regarding ‘the tailed Englishman’, which was a bad joke or an insult, more than a sincere belief, referred to alleged English animalistic tendencies and perfidy, whereas we suggest that the animal and satanic appendix of the Jews can also be understood as a literal interpretation of a passage from the Bible.

Ilaria Sabbatini, Finis corporis initium animae. La qualità morale del nemico nella rappresentazione del corpo tra epica crociata e odeporica di pellegrinaggio, S. 257-292.

Pilgrimage diaries represent an important tradition where narrative and memory entwine, with a positive function for historical reconstruction that has been demonstrated beyond doubt. Building on these assumptions, it went on to investigate the formation of the idea of the enemy in the patristic literature, in relation to the transition from Muhammad’s heresy to that of Muslim paganism. Referring to a corpus of Tuscan-Florentine texts, it is possible to identify an original approach that ignores the theological consideration of the enemy and describes otherness.

Pietro Silanos, The Depositio of Beanus. Horns, teeth and other bulges in an initiation ceremony in German area (XV century), S. 293-322.

In medieval universities were frequent initiation ceremonies for the introduction of freshmen in the consortium studentium. The recurrent terms purgatio, depositio, potatio, expupillatio, all recalling the idea of purification from a state of imperfection.The case described here is drawn from a didactic work, written in the form of a dialogue, in Heidelberg at the end of the XV century. This is a depositio cornuum of a young Tuscan beanus. The new student to access the studium must accept to suffer from two major colleagues the elimination of all those bumps that non decent hominem scholasticum: horns, long teeth, messy hair. These body extremities symbolically mark the difference between the condition of illitteratus – similar to that of an animal – and that of litteratus – rational and therefore deeply human.

Luigi Canetti, Facendosi fare di cera. Un’euristica dell’eccedenza e della somiglianza tra Medioevo ed Età moderna, S. 323-356.

Analyse of a specific category of ex voto: the wax reproductions – often full-size – of the body of the devout Christian. In the late Middle Ages, the typology of these simulacra developed significantly, at least seemingly. Even for full-size votive casts dressed in real clothes and other garments (see for instance the famous bóti of Florence), the imitation of the offerer’s figure did not matter as much as the votive object’s substituting function and its effectiveness in a given working and ritual context did. This brings about the platonic problem of the mimesis, as it was formulated by Enrst Gombrich: the relationship between imitating and making as well as the one between the likeness and the production of effective signs.

Beate Fricke, Tracce di Sangue e ‘finis corporis’. Sulla genesi della vita nel Quattrocento. Riflessioni sull’Uomo di dolori di Albrecht Dürer, S. 357-380.

In their attempt to show bodies animated and alive, painters commented on this crucial question for antique and medieval thinkers by turning it round: Their paintings show an evident interest in what happens to blood after exiting the body in the moment of loosing life, of dying. In Italy since the Trecento, and north of the Alps since ca. 1400, painted traces of blood demonstrate the process of coagulation, the changes of color, substance and liquidity blood experiences outside the body. To render our imagination about the loss of life more lively painters like Enguerrand Quarton, Konrad Witz, the Master of the Bartholomäusaltar and Albrecht Dürer use the paradox that the demonstration of the deadly loss of blood enhances the animation of the picture. On the basis of this artistic interest to contemporary debates about eviction of evidence e.g. in the case of the Holy Blood relic in Mantua 1459/1460 or the ‘Jetzer’-case at Berne, a new interpretation of the two sides of Albrecht Dürer’s panel at Karlsruhe is suggested.

Ottavia Niccoli, Capi e corpi mostruosi. Una immagine della crisi del potere agli inizi dell’età moderna, S. 381-400.

During the Renaissance and early modern period monstrous births were carefully observed and analysed as a part of a network of ‘signs’ of divine ire and omens of imminent catastrophe. This cultural pattern looses its power and influence during the second part of 16th century but it is still working if we consider the popular pamphlets and broadsheets written and printed until the 17th century. The typology of monsters is various but a strong attention is stressed when the malformation is related to the head. Texts and images showing this particular kind of monstrous shape were linked to the traditional image of society as a body. According to this metaphor, the head had the function of governing the physical body as the king had the role of ruling the political body. If the relationship between the head and the body was abnormal, that was read and explained as a prognostication of political disorder and social crisis.

Brigitte Schwarz, Hæc non sunt bona presagia. I mostri nei fogli volanti della Wickiana, S. 401-410.

I have described a number of 16th century prints representing real or imaginary monstrous creatures with anomalous protuberances and other malformations, or with chimeric bodies.They belong to a collection of 429 leaflets or pamphlets representing frightening natural events – like fire, earthquakes, floods and comets – monsters, crimes, etc., which was assembled by Johann Jakob Wick, a minister and theologian who lived in Zurich. Many of the leaflets came from renown printing centres, e.g., Augsburg Nurnberg and Strasburg. They were all incorporated into Wick’s personal daily diary, written between 1560 and 1 88, which is regarded as one of the most remarkable accounts of social and cultural history of the second half of the 16th century in Europe.

Jean Wirth, L’iconographie médiévale du pied, S. 411-432.

The foot pattern allows to illustrate almost all the difficulties encountered by medieval religious iconography. It brings along two perfect classical hierarchies, one relating to the upper and lower part of the body while the other its interior and exterior, both articulating on those of the spirit and the flesh, of the cleanness and the dirt, of the honourable and the humble. Nevertheless, while commentators have troubles explaining why the Christ of the Gospels recommends to go sometimes barefoot, sometimes wearing shoes, iconography gives to feet the most diverse values, at times even conflicting. This witnesses some widespread contradictions within the system, mainly three, which are connected one another. First, nudity, beginning with that of the feet, is sometimes emphasized, sometimes devalued. Second, and this is certainly the cause of it, there is a contradiction between the notions of poverty and decency: poverty involves despoilment, whereas decency requires to be properly, or better richly dressed.Third, the sexual connotations of the foot can refer both to the sin of flesh and to spiritual marriage, so that the sacred often borders on the obscene.

Thomas Golsenne, Les miracles de la peau. Figures de l’Incarnation dans les arts visuels (XIVe-XVIe siècles), S. 433-450.

In opposition to a certain history of art, which considers the passage from Middle Ages to the Renaissance as a radical rupture, we are tempting here to see this passage rather as a continued evolution, starting with a lecture of Warburg. According to him, empathy is a psychological phenomenon proper to the Renaissance, manifesting itself by more animation in the images of the Quattrocento. This view neglects the empathic-relationship between the believer and devotional medieval image. The hypothesis formulated here is that instead of an abandon of hieratic and impassive medieval forms for an adoption of communicative and living forms, we should see this passage rather as an esthetization of visual patterns, motivated in the beginning by devotional empathy.

Victor I. Stoichita, ‘La seconde peau’. Quelques considérations sur le symbolisme des armures au XVIe siècle, S. 451-464.

This article focuses on sixteenth-century armor, here considered as a symbolic envelopment of the body. Renaissance Armor is essentially a form of parade garment, which lacks a clear or concrete defensive function but is loaded with messages of power. The hardness of the material itself, its brightness, and especially its figurative decoration contribute to the creation of an impenetrable and invincible ‘second skin’. Close readings of celebrated Italian, Spanish, German and Dutch armor highlight the antique roots of a new sixteenth-century language of armor.

Diane H. Bodart, Il mento ‘posticcio’ dell’Imperatore Carlo V, S. 465-484.

From the 1530s, Italian writers and artists worked to conceal Charles V’s unpleasant physiognomy with the imperial idea he had to express.The result, mostly the portraits by Titian, was to become the model for all new representations of the sovereign, in such a fundamental way that this model substituted the physical face of Charles V in European imagination and became his “true image”.The prognathism thus refined and associated with the most eloquent figure of power, became in itself a positive element that could be removed from the physiognomy of Charles V to be applied to another face, just like a posticcio: as a dynastic mark to legitimate successors and even predecessors of the Emperor; as a physiognomical sign that could express princely virtues – like majestas or gravitas – in men of every social status; as an heroic pattern to give emphasis to male portraiture.

Dominic-Alain Boariu, De quelques décapités recalcitrants, S. 485-510.

Focusing on the late 18th century and the entire 19th century, this essay proposes an insight into the collective mentality regarding decapitation. The essay’s introduction is based on two case studies: an engraving by Peter Bruegel and an English witchcraft treatise, both conveying ‘suspicious’ beheadings. Its theoretical approach relies on two famous books which have served as our ‘companions’: Homo ludens by Johan Huizinga and Les jeux et les hommes by Roger Caillois. The decapitation is conceived not only as a clearly punitive and anatomically fatal act, but especially as a visually subtle ‘happening’, strongly touching the sphere of magic, game and deceit.

Micrologus. Natura, scienze e società medievali / Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies 20 (2012). in: H-Soz-Kult, 03.09.2012, <www.hsozkult.de/journal/id/zeitschriftenausgaben-7104>.
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