Ugly and Wasted
Ugly and Wasted
This chapter explores the aspects of Christian attitudes toward the body that non-believers usually find most difficult — the exaltation of the body as ‘ugly and wasted’. Most of the chapter is concerned with a selective historical survey that seeks to interpret sympathetically some of the stranger aspects of Christian history, beginning with an examination of the types of changes that were made to the telling of the crucifixion story in order to make affective appropriation easier. A comparison is then made between one of the Gospels and the response of the 15th-century English mystic Margery Kempe in her own distinctive gift of tears. Thereafter, two more extreme types of reaction are explored: the asceticism of those, such as Catherine of Siena, who sought to live on virtually nothing; and the way in which the classical legend of the flaying of Marsyas was adapted to Christian ideals in normally quite restrained artists such as Michelangelo and Titian. In pursuing this more sympathetic analysis, the intention is not to declare right and proper such extremes. Rather, it is to call into question blanket condemnations and to raise the question of whether the modern world is really necessarily any better in its approach.
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