Horrifying Bodies: Waste in Monastic Imagination
- Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
- University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
- Volume 50, 2019
- pp. 77-95
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- Additional Information
Demons were ubiquitous creatures in the Middle Ages, manipulating the human form and wreaking havoc on the pious and impious alike. In this paper, I examine two thirteenth-century demonologies and how religious men depicted the malicious machinations of these beings on their bodies, particularly on their gastrointestinal systems. By applying waste theory to our understanding of these texts, I illuminate how both Richalmus of Schöntal and Caesarius of Heisterbach projected the ineffable processes of body onto demonic figures in order to corporealize and combat the sinful human forms perpetually producing abject waste in spite of self mortification. Despite this effort to establish a binary between the spiritual and bodily, these texts ultimately collapse this dualism, as the waste produced by the body represented the embodiment of the inescapable spiritual decay of the fallen human soul.