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Impolitic BodiesPoetry, Saints, and Society in Fifteenth-Century England: The Work of Osbern Bokenham$
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Sheila Delany

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780195109887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195109887.001.0001

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Impolitic Bodies I

Impolitic Bodies I

Head, Feet, Face, Womb

(p.70) Four Impolitic Bodies I
Impolitic Bodies

Sheila Delany

Oxford University Press

The chapter begins a detailed discussion of the content of Bokenham's legendary. Most of the female saints featured in Bokenham's legendary can be grouped according to a particular part of the body, which serves as Bokenham's locus for the set. The chapter focuses on the first grouping—St. Margaret, St. Anne, and St. Christine—with a side note on St. Elizabeth. The first body part to be discussed is the head, whose importance and symbolism is tied to the popularity of decapitation as the most common manner of death for martyrs in the era. This segues into Bokenham's use of several incidents in the lives of these women martyrs involving references to or actual use of the feet, face, and womb. The symbolism and significance of the way Bokenham structured his writings around these body parts is analyzed, as well as its impact on the saints' devotees.

Keywords:   Bokenham, legendary, head, feet, face, womb, St. Margaret, St. Anne, St. Christine, St. Elizabeth

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