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By Sarah Beckwith

On the very center of Christian doctrine and past due medieval perform used to be a dead ringer for the crucified Christ. Sarah Beckwith examines the social that means of this picture throughout a number key devotional English texts, utilizing insights from anthropology and cultural experiences. just like the crucified Christ, she argues, acted as a spot the place the tensions among the sacred and the profane, the person and the collective, have been performed out. The medieval obsession with the contours of Christ's physique functioned to problem and remodel social and political kinfolk. a desirable and demanding e-book of curiosity not just to scholars of medieval literature, but in addition to cultural historians and women's reviews experts.

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The very divergent religiosity of the two Margerys indicates the extent to which the relationship of the sacred and the profane is subject to urgent questioning and revision in this period; and again as in Despenser’s reredos, the focus of this conflict is played out around the representation of and response to the very medium of Christ’s body which is simultaneously the most public and the most intimate arena. 11 Just as in the body, the feet and the hands and the eyes are naturally subordinated to the head, so the common people are ordained to work for holy church.

11 Just as in the body, the feet and the hands and the eyes are naturally subordinated to the head, so the common people are ordained to work for holy church. 12 But Jack’s ‘Rejoinder’ invests the hands of the labourer with a newly subversive power: Me merueliþ of þi lewdnes Dawe—or of wilful lesynges— For Poule laborid with his hondes, & oþer postilles also— , oure gentil Iesu, as it is opunly knowe. 13 CHRIST’S BODY 25 It is an inversion of the typically abstract and hierarchical image of the body as the naturalization of social order, a replacement of an idea about the body, in fact, with a working practice invested in it, a materialism of the body as opposed to an idealization of it.

Inasmuch as their comments reveal a symptomatic shift in the very organization of piety, in its production, transmission, its distribution, its reception, they tend to relinquish the whole arena of identity, and the formation of identity, as one which happens outside a social arena. As Norbert Elias has said in a book which deals with the interrelationship of history and sociological theory: The individual [in sociological theory]…or what the present concept of the individual refers to, appears again and again as something outside society.

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