Body Narratives: Writing the Nation and Fashioning the by Susanne Scholz (auth.)

By Susanne Scholz (auth.)

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Sample text

As I have mentioned earlier, the ideals and configurations of body natural and body politic are interdependent, and individual and collective identity are framed by similar means. The most prominent instance of this isomorphism in the poem is the double reading that can be applied to the Castle of Alma-episode in Book 2, Canto 9. In this idealized version of the temperate body, the concrete corporeality of bodily processes is displaced to a private domain and thus, in its invisibility, disclaimed as non-existent.

The contained body with its outer boundaries reinforced by armour is here constructed as masculine, while the softness, daintiness, and permeability of the skin are identified as feminine. The bewitching qualities of the Bower thus inhere to a large degree in its being a female space that effeminates every inhabitant; this ‘femininity’ is reinforced by associations with artfulness, purposelessness, and the fact that its pleasures serve as an end in themselves. Interestingly, the lewd knight, Verdant, is not depicted as fully responsible for abandoning his honour: it is the combination of the ‘witch’ Acrasia and the enchanting place that has led to Verdant’s deviation, and he can easily be brought back to the right way.

Though I would not deny the courtier a certain degree of consciousness and agency in his self-fashioning – as agency inheres, as Judith Butler has shown, in any reiterative, ‘citational’ process12 – there are, on the other hand, discourses and structures in operation that determine and have always already determined his strategic options. 13 The courtly ‘I’ thus always emerges as the materialization of the sovereign’s power on the body surface of the subject, who nevertheless claims to be in possession of an interior self that is the originator of his actions.

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