Tuesday 26 November 18:30 - 20:30

Bush House, Lecture Theatre 2
30 Aldwych
King's College London
London
WC2B 4BG

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Disfigurement and Medieval Thought: The Birth of Prejudice

Community & Culture

A lecture with Patricia Skinner

This paper presents the first fruits of a new study on living with disfigurement in the later middle ages c.1200-1500. In this new work, what I am interested in is not so much the taxonomy of disfigurement - but why it is - beyond the explosion in quantity of evidence - that later medieval texts present more explicit and negative associations of facial disfigurement. Early exploration suggests that an epistemological shift occurred in discussions of the disfigured face and interpretations of its meaning. Most strikingly, the actual term disfigurement, which is pretty thin on the ground in relation to material - and indeed metaphorical - bodies in earlier medieval Latin and Greek texts, begins to appear with much more frequency in this later period. That is, ‘disfigurement’ as a concept, which had previously been used sparingly and usually to represent the deformity of an institution, such as the Church, or of moral behaviour, begins to be utilised and anchored to the individual human body and, specifically, the face. Using mainly sources produced in Italy, I will examine some of the possible reasons for this change.

A wine reception will follow.

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