Cutaneous Time in the Late Medieval Literary Imagination

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


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).


Bryn Mawr Temporal Abstraction Medieval Literary Canterbury Tale Medieval Romance 
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© Katie L. Walter 2013

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  • Isabel Davis

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