The Medieval Body

As Bynum pointed out in 1995, ‘discussions of the body are almost completely incommensurate – and often mutually incomprehensible across the disciplines’.


De Astrologica, Margarita Philosophica (vol II, issue II, fol. 3r.) Wellcome Library

As a result of a growing willingness to communicate across disciplines, discussions of the body have developed significantly since Bynum’s article. However, if research is to continue to progress, scholars must be prepared to collaborate with individuals from different fields of enquiry.  Consequently, I endeavour to be as interdisciplinary as possible in my research into the medieval body. Primarily drawing upon historical and art historical evidence, whilst also dipping into the fields of literature, biology and archaeology, my work in this field is largely concerned with ‘non-conformist’ bodies in the later medieval era.

Below I have included a number of selected readings which I believe to be a useful introduction to the medieval (particularly non-conformist) body.


Selected Readings

Bynum, Caroline, ‘Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective’, Critical Inquiry, 22 (1995), 1-33

Cohen, Jeffrey J. and Gail Weiss (eds.), Thinking the Limits of the Body (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003)

Frank, Arthur W., ‘Medieval Bodies and Feminist History’, Theory, Culture & Society, 9 (1992), 161-68

Grantley, Darryll and Nina Taunton (eds.), The Body in Late Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000)

Kalof, Linda and William Bynum (eds.), Cultural History of the Human Body, Volume 2: In the Medieval Age (Oxford: Berg, 2010)

Laqueur, Thomas, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (London: Harvard University Press, 1990)

Park, Katharine, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation and the Origins of Human Dissection (New York: Zone Books, 2006)

Pouchelle, Marie-Christine, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages, trans. Rosemary Morris (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990).

Shahar, Shulamith, ‘The Old Body in Medieval Culture’, in Framing Medieval Bodies, ed. by Sarah Kay and Miri Rubin (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 160-86