Professor Lila Yawn Invited to Speak at University of Manchester's

On November 20th, Art History Professor Lila Yawn was invited to speak in the University of Manchester’s Art History and Visual Studies Department Seminar Series ‘Wounds and Utopia’, organized by Prof. Carol Mavor.

The talk is based on a forthcoming article of the same title, which will be published in Wounds in the Middle Ages, a collection n of studies edited by Anne Kirkham and Cordelia Warr.

Here is an abstract of Prof. Yawn’s talk, “The Bright Side of the Knife: Dismemberment in Medieval Europe and the Modern Imagination”

In common parlance “medieval” is synonymous with “backward” “benighted” and “barbaric.” Films, literature, and journalistic language about the Middle Ages and medievalizing fantasy worlds commonly reinforce this perceived equivalency by representing dismemberment — the cutting up or pulling apart of living human bodies — as a common element of medieval and medieval-style experience. (Think of Monty Python’s Black Knight or of Frodo Baggins’s finger.) Yet legal codes, accounts of war, and other historical sources indicate that the non-medical/therapeutic severing of extremities was as much an early modern phenomenon as a medieval one. What diminished at the end of the Middle Ages was the tendency to perceive the loss of an arm, leg, hand, or nose as somehow potentially positive: as an instrument of sexual virtue, saintly witness, religious conversion, or peacemaking.

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