Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment
June 15-16, 2012

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Medieval Monstrosity and the Female Body

If you are passionate about the fascinating field of medieval monstrosity and the female body, take a look at Sarah Allison Miller's Medieval Monstrosity and the Female Body, recently published in the Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture series. The work reflects a growing interest in the monstrous within Medieval Studies, exploring the critically and philosophically challenging monstrous female bodies which resist reductive or simplistic conclusions. It is precisely this complexity that is highlighted in Andrea Schutz's review of the work published in The Medieval Review:

Women are the monsters of origins, the monsters without whom no one exists. Where most studies of medieval teratology give voice to the monster as other, Miller argues that the monstrous female body is not other at all, but the matrix of the normative body, which must then forever deal with its own contributions to and participation in female monstrosity. As such, monstrous female bodies offer a continuous resistance to being read simply or uniformly; characterized as unstable and read as danger, women's bodies force the readers into acknowledgment of the instability and danger of those same readings.

As Schutz points out, the very beginning of Miller's book sets a premise for seeing the female body ''as a thing which transgresses the very constructions which make bodies monstrous", resulting in a female body imbued with meaning rather than devoid of it. Miller applies Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's monster thesis "the monster always escapes" ("Seven Monster Theses", Monster Theory: Reading Culture) to "show that the stable readings required by normative medieval theory are themselves frustrated by the very bodies defined as monstrous."
Exploring virgins, motherhood, gynecology, monstrous births, theology and numerous others, the work present a useful and fascinating contribution to feminist critique, monstrosity and Medieval Studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment