August 16, 2005

On Farting: Bodily Wind in the Middle Ages

Category: Books/Articles — @ 9:33 am

On Farting
Bodily Wind in the Middle Ages

By Valerie Allen and John Thompson
Due/Published September 2005, 256 pages, cloth
ISBN 0312234937
The study of the fart in medieval culture participates in the widespread and
productive contemporary study of the body, its practices and its
hermeneutics. As a consequence of the cultural materialist interest in the
quotidian, recent criticism has moved away from an abstracted conception of
selfhood toward an appreciation of how the concrete daily regimens of bodily
“habitus, generally taken for granted, shape the horizon of our cultural and
individual consciousness. The fart, in its parodying of language and its
logic of affinity, leads us ultimately to the problem of hermeneutics, of
the art of interpretation itself. Although much of the medieval
preoccupation with flatulence originates from the aesthetic of comic
inversion, whereby farts “sing” or parody human language or are mistaken for
departed souls, it also reflects a more serious interest in bodily health. A
multifarious typology of the fart will permit a better understanding of the
phenomenon’s protean wealth of meaning.

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