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Cutaneous Time in the Late Medieval Literary Imagination

  • Isabel Davis
Chapter
  • 120 Downloads
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Medieval people made quick associations between skin as a raw material and the things—especially clothes and writing surfaces—that were fashioned from them. Furthermore, they readily recognized the similarity between their own skin and those of animals that could be thus treated. People’s proximity to and familiarity with the treatment of and trade in skins made its associated terms and techniques ripe for figurative use. This chapter is about the special use that medieval writers made of skin as a metaphor for time. Most obviously, skin ages, yet, in the Middle Ages, skin figuratively substituted for time in a more thorough way. Skin and time were thought to share the same mechanical properties: both could stretch, fold, and tear. Skin gave writers material ways to think about deferment (stretching), anachronism, and replication (both folding), and event (tearing).

Keywords

Bryn Mawr Temporal Abstraction Medieval Literary Canterbury Tale Medieval Romance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Michel Serres with Bruno Latour, Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time, trans. Roxanne Lapidus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), p. 60.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    J. J. Anderson, ed., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience (London: J. M. Dent, 1996). All quotations will be by fit and line number in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Margaret Jennings, “Tutivillus: The Literary Career of the Recording Demon,” Studies in Philology 74.5 (1977): 49 [1-95], writes that these stories “seem contrived to frighten women.” See also Kathy Cawsey, “Tutivillus and the ‘Kyrkchaterars’: Strategies of Control in the Middle Ages,” Studies in Philology 102.4 (2005): e.g. 436 [434-51].Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 116–22. All citations will be by line number in the text.Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    This wound has been seen as a kind of writing, as on parchment, and compared to similar motifs by Paul F. Reichardt, “Gawain and the Image of the Wound,” PMLA 99.2 (1984): 155 [154-61].Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    Jill Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, Chaucer Studies 30 (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2002, first pub. 1991), p. 61.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Katie L. Walter 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabel Davis

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