Fallen Bodies Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages

ISBN-10: 0812216652
ISBN-13: 9780812216653
Edition: 1998
Authors: Dyan Elliott
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Description: Medieval clerics believed that original sin had rendered their "fallen bodies" vulnerable to corrupting impulses--particularly those of a sexual nature. They feared that their corporeal frailty left them susceptible to demonic forces bent on  More...

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Book details

List price: $28.95
Copyright year: 1998
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Publication date: 1/1/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 312
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.100
Language: English

Medieval clerics believed that original sin had rendered their "fallen bodies" vulnerable to corrupting impulses--particularly those of a sexual nature. They feared that their corporeal frailty left them susceptible to demonic forces bent on penetrating and polluting their bodies and souls. Drawing on a variety of canonical and other sources,Fallen Bodies examines a wide-ranging set of issues generated by fears of pollution, sexuality, and demonology. To maintain their purity, celibate clerics combated the stain of nocturnal emissions; married clerics expelled their wives onto the streets and out of the historical record; an exemplum depicting a married couple having sex in church was told and retold; and the specter of the demonic lover further stigmatized women's sexuality. Over time, the clergy's conceptions of womanhood became radically polarized: the Virgin Mary was accorded ever greater honor, while real, corporeal women were progressively denigrated. When church doctrine definitively denied the physicality of demons, the female body remained as the prime material presence of sin. Dyan Elliott contends that the Western clergy's efforts to contain sexual instincts--and often the very thought and image of woman--precipitated uncanny returns of the repressed. She shows how this dynamic ultimately resulted in the progressive conflation of the female and the demonic, setting the stage for the future persecution of witches. "This elegantly written book reveals and explores a set of profound if elusive connections that made the materialization of the witch in the early modern period, in Dyan Elliott's closing words, 'virtually irresistable.'. . . A dazzling recreation of pre-Enlightenment thinking about the overlapping configurations of pollution, this important book will be essential reading for premodern and early modern scholars of gender, sexuality, and the body."--Medium Aevum.

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction
Pollution, Illusion, and Masculine Disarray: Nocturnal Emissions and the Sexuality of the Clergy
From Sexual Fantasy to Demonic Defloration: The Libidinous Female in the Later Middle Ages
Sex in Holy Places: An Exploration of a Medieval Anxiety
The Priest's Wife: Female Erasure and the Gregorian Reform
Avatars of the Priest's Wife: The Return of the Repressed
On Angelic Disembodiment and the Incredible Purity of Demons
Afterward
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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