‘Being Wholly Out of Body’: Astonishment in Late Medieval English Literature
Laura Godfrey, Ph.D. Candidate in Medieval Studies, University of Connecticut
December 4, 2019 – 4 to 5PM (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor South)
This talk brings together medieval medical and literary descriptions over overwhelming bodily experiences. In medieval literature, when a subject encounters a divine figure, they lose all physical and mental faculties, and after a period of stasis, these faculties are restored, often with heightened senses of perception or newly gained insight. Middle English texts describe this as astonishment, a phenomenon described in medieval medicine as a cerebral malady similar to paralysis or epilepsy. By enmeshing themselves in this cultural rhetoric of dramatic change, medieval authors use literary descriptions to extend the pathology of astonishment and to investigate the effects of this state on the mind and soul.
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