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The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature$
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Dorothy Yamamoto

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186748

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186748.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature
Author(s):

DOROTHY YAMAMOTO

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186748.003.0001

‘Thinking the body’ can give us privileged access to the ways in which a culture represents the world to itself, and handles its own, potentially conflicting, elements. This is certainly true of medieval culture, with its frequently articulated models of high and low, centre and periphery. However, the relationship between what is valued and what is not is inherently unstable because of its focus upon physical form — which can always change. Man is the high point of mortal creation, but he shows this through his upright stance, oriented towards God. If he goes down on all fours and crawls like a beast, does he lose whatever it is that makes him human? In the following chapters, such questions generate explorations of texts like the Bestiary and of social practices such as hunting. The discussion then moves to the ambiguous figure of the wild man, and to the role of women within this world view.

Keywords:   body, medieval culture, Bestiary, hunting, wild man, women

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