Eating Harts: Blurton Chapter II

Blurton’s second chapter considers Beowulf within the alimentary logic and wonders of the whole of its manuscript, Cotton Vitellius A. XV, whose contents, as our Anglo-Saxonists surely know, include “part of a life of Saint Christopher, a version of the Wonders of the East, The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, and an Old English redaction of the Book of Judith” (37). I loved meeting Donestres, Cynocephali, and other old friends in this chapter, and also enjoyed Blurton’s discussion of the problem word eoten. It’s a word whose meaning is clear enough during Grendel’s assault on Heorot “cannibal/anthropophage/maneater/whatever” (not Blurton’s translation there, folks), but in the other five instances, for example, during the Fight at Finnsburg episode, it “seems to connote..a group of people rather than a group of giants or other monsters” (52). Blurton argues the word should be translated consistently as having to do with cannibals and cannibalism, not, for instance, as “monster.” As she points out, Grendel is a threat not so much because of his size as because of his dietary habits, and also the Finnsburg fight is, like Grendel’s assault on Heorot, about a metaphoric threat “of cannibalistic incorporation” and a quite literal threat to the body politic (55). In sum, she argues that “The Beowulf-poet weaves the word [eoten] through the narrative to stress [the] theme of the conceptual link between the cannibalizing of the human body and the cannibalizing of the social body” (55).

I’m highlighting this argument, first, because I enjoy a good linguistic crux, especially one that leads to conclusions as surprising as these, and second, because I’m not an Anglo-Saxonist, so I don’t know what to make of her reading. In other words, I’ve love for some of my co-bloggers who know their way around Beowulf (in other words, the ones who aren’t me), as well as some other Anglo-Saxonists (Richard Scott Nokes and Mary Kate Hurley for example) to weigh in on this matter.

My second observation on this chapter is also–I hope not characteristically–minor, but I wanted, as I did in my previous post, to add a little something from my own reading to Blurton’s work. Inspired in part by the description of Grendel stepping through the “mouth” of Heorot, Blurton suggests that “Heorot is also a body of a kind. Heorot is itself metonymy for the body politic of the Danes” (36). You can see how this resonates with the interpretation I describe in the paragraph above. Now, Heorot is not just a kind of body; Heorot is in fact a very particular kind of body, namely (and obviously if you have Anglo-Saxon: which I don’t), that of a hart. A few months back, I read William Perry Marvin’s Hunting Law and Ritual in Medieval English Literature, where Marvin makes much of the hall’s strange name (why not call it “Hrothgar’s Place”?). In his chapter on Beowulf, Marvin describes two opposed modes of hunting: one in which killing an animal made the animal your property, and the other in which killing the animal made a claim to territory (he describes a third one as well, which I won’t get into here). Hrothgar has taken land and gains retainers by sharing out booty. As Marvin puts it, Grendel’s invasion of the Hart is an assault on Hrothgar’s “gifting prerogative” to force “the parting out of pieces of the body of the Hart–literally, Scylding warriors in the flesh” (43). Marvin’s political reading is a nice counterpart to Blurton’s: e.g, “Grendel’s actions appear regressive because he cannot stomach dynastic appropriation–an intolerance that is perfectly compatible with the most hard-bitten frontier egalitarianism of the migration and viking ages” (42). But what I also like about Marvin is that he doesn’t lose sight of the fleshy materiality of either anthropophagy or the eating of harts. By contrast, Blurton’s reading is emphatically metaphorical, and there’s no foul there: certainly anthropophagy is symbolically charged.

My Kzoo paper on anthropophagy (auto-horn-tooting) tried to answer why it should be so charged, but it also tried to keep in mind its fleshiness. So here I end with a different sort of question, meant for those of you in an answering mood: how might a fleshy reading of some of Blurton’s cannibalism texts–Beowulf for example–work? How might this enhance or alter her readings?

I’ll check in periodically over the weekend–I’m following my wife as she takes a quick worktrip to San Francisco–but I trust my fellow bloggers to keep things humming here.


Partners in Grief: Andrew and the Starving Mermedonians

1050805589_00cdad0cbfA entry in a book event, unlike a book review, makes no claim to completeness, finality, or even to treating the book under question directly. Consider yourself warned, because what I’m posting is a less-cluttered version of the marginalia you see pictured.

The subject of Blurton’s first chapter is the Old English Andreas, which tells the story of a warrior saint sent to the anthropophagous Mermedonians. Soon after he arrives, Andrew frees Matthew and hundreds of others from prison, so depriving the Mermedonians of their food. They wail, of course, and feed on the corpses of the guards slain by Andrew. Still hungry, they fall to drawing lots to determine who will be eaten next. Blurton sets out a standard approach to this episode:

When a victim is chosen in this way, in order to save himself, he substitutes his small son in his place. While the Mermedonians are described as starving: “hungre wæron / þearle geþreatod” [they were cruelly harassed by hunger] (1114b-1115a; 139), the horror of the Mermedonians’ ravenous rage turned against an innocent boy through the agency of one by whom he should be loved and protected highlights their depravity and, by extension, the righteousness of Andreas’ mission. (17-18)

She of course sets out the standard approach only to muddle the clear binaries. As Mermedonia is an island that looks much like Britain, and since Andrew’s mission seems to be as much one of conquest as it is one of conversion, we might say Andrew’s gone a-Viking and the Mermedonians are his victims (25). The Mermedonian costume and military organization should themselves be uncannily familiar to the tenth-century English. And Andrew himself is someone who eats human flesh and drinks human blood: he’s a Christian after all, and it had recently become de rigeur to demand that the Eucharist be understood as the real body of Christ.

Blurton explains in an early note that she won’t be discussing famine cannibalism in her book (139 n2), but it strikes me that the topoi of famine cannibalism can be used to draw Andrew and the Mermedonians still more closely together. When anthropophagy is a custom, it’s of course monstrous (indeed, as Blurton observes, it’s a standard feature for many of the monsters in the Liber monstrorum), but when anthropophagy results from famine, it’s a catastrophe, a cause for grief, and thus provokes a wholly different kind of horror, one that involves us rather than one that distinguishes us from some other. And it’s usual to turn to eating children during a famine: see Leviticus 26:27-9, Deuteronomy 28:53-7, Lamentations 4:10, or 2 Kings 6 :28-29; or the story from Josephus of Mary/Maria of Jerusalem, who cooks and eats half her own child during Titus’s siege (see my reference and its note in the first graph here); or the ninth-century Annals of Fulda, in which a family is saved from killing their child during a famine only when they steal a deer’s carcass from hungry wolves; or the sad story of a father who killed and ate his own daughter during a famine at the command of his Saracen captors (Innocent III responds to the father’s appeal for penance by enjoining him “nunquam de caetero carnibus pro quacunque necessitate vesceretur” (Epistola LXXX, PL 214: 1063D-64B; never again to eat any other meat for whatever necessity); or even, looking far afield, this law from the thirteenth-century Castillian lawcode, the Siete Partidas:

And there is another reason that a father can do this: according to the true law of Spain a father who is besieged in a castle he holds from his lord, may, if so beset with hunger that he has nothing to eat, eat his child with impunity rather than surrender the castle without permission of the lord (quoted from John Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers 329)

Blurton aims at doing a “contrapuntal reading” (see Said Culture and Imperialism) that “creates a counterpoint between a dominant cultural discourse and a resisting perspective, which opens up a new space for meaning” (18); in this case, “Reading Andreas contrapuntally uncovers what I refer to as its cannibal narrative, that is, a narrative that is sympathetic to the cannibal Mermedonians” (18). I would like to think that if I weren’t suffering from a days’-long headcold, I could draw all this together. For now, I want only to observe that when the father saves himself by offering up his son to be eaten, any response that saw this only as monstrous would be self-congratulatory. But more likely, the response would have been the shock of the familiar, the shuddering memory of what horrors famines cause (on their frequency, and thus familiarity, see the list in P. Bonnassie “Consommation d’aliments immondes et cannibalisme de survie dans l’Occident du haut Moyen Age.” Annales 44 (1989): 1035-56, at 1045: there were 29 major famines between 751 and 1100), and shared sorrow. For a time, the readers of Andreas would have felt for and with the Mermedonians.

Delicious Kzoo Preview

I decided to give up on gumming my dissertation to death for a moment to offer our readers this, an inchoate version of my upcoming Kalamazoo paper, but with discussion questions and a bit of blegging.

The Golden Legend is one of many medieval works that lavish attention on the enormities of Titus’s siege of Jerusalem. In it, a rich woman despairs after robbers empty her house; she “strangled her son, had him cooked, ate the half of his body, and hid the other half. But when robbers smelled the odor of the cooked meat, they burst in and threatened the woman with death if she did not give up her store of meat.” She shows them the half-eaten body, and the robbers shrink in horror: both at the infanticide and at their realization that their appetite had betrayed them by making no distinction whatsoever between animal and human flesh.

Human flesh smells like—because it is—meat. More than that: in a number of medieval texts, it’s the best of meats, the healthiest and most delicious. In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Brian, unable to find venison for his ailing uncle Cadwallo, feeds him a roasted piece of his own thigh; Cadwallo, enjoying the flesh very much, regains his health and goes on to reign as the last of the British kings. In a now-infamous Middle English romance, Richard Coer de Lyon, Richard’s men trick an ailing Richard, who yearns for pork, into eating the heavily spiced body of a “ჳonge and ffat” Saracen. While “hys ffolk hem tournyd away and lowჳ,” Richard enthusiastically consumes his meal and regains his health. Edward of York’s hunting manual observes that a wolf, having once tasted human flesh, will prefer this to all others because “mannys flesh is so savery and so plesaunt.” No doubt: in a crusade narrative by Richard the Pilgrim (will need to check my sources on this), the Tafurs delight in feasting on the corpses of Turks because human flesh “molt est cis savourés, / mius vaut que cars de porc ne que bacons ullés’” (is very flavorful. It is better than any pork flesh or bacon), and in one of Poggio Bracciolini’s tales, a teenaged serial killer, when caught, “fassus est se plures alios comedisse, idque se agere, quoniam sapidiores reliquis carnibus viderentur” (confessed that he had eaten many other [children], and that he had done this because they seemed tastier to him than any other flesh).

It’s usual to read anthropophagy as a political metaphor. While Geraldine Heng is probably best known for this, the approach has a long pedigree: for example, see a thirteenth-century estates satire, “De diversus ordinibus hominibus” (in Thomas Wright, The Latin Poems Commonly Attributed to Walter Mapes. Camden Society, 1841), where “Comites et milites quos gentes honorant, / pauperum substantiam subito devorant” (the counts and knights whom men honor devour the substance of the poor in no time at all) and for many further examples, see Nicola McDonald, “Eating People and the alimentary logic of Richard Coeur de Lion,” in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England, 126, and 221-31 in Philippe Buc, “Manducation et domination: Analyse du Métaphore” in his Ambiguité du livre, where he argues that “le cannibalisme des ‘princes et tyrans’ est une perversion du sacrifice eucharistique” (nb: I rather think it’s the other way around, with the Eucharist as a secondary formation on the fundamental horror of anthropophagy).

I’m going to argue that the imagined enjoyment of human flesh in general, as a communifying process centered around not an ethnic, religious, or colonial identity but around human identity itself. Rather than understanding anthropophagy in relation to activities between humans or between humans and their divinities, I want to understand it through meat-eating and flesh in general, which means understanding it in terms of the human relation to animals and to their own appetite. In brief, I want to get past anthropophagy as metaphor, inasmuch such a thing is possible.

Here’s what I intend to do: the purported deliciousness of human flesh likely derives from a desire to reinstate the superiority of humans to animals despite their shared meatiness. Since humans are superior to animals, their flesh must be superior too. But a separation along these lines can only be a failure, because if it succeeds in preserving human specialness, it does nothing to prevent anthropophagy: it in fact encourages it. It’s not been so easy to nail this project down, and not only because I’m easily distracted. Hunts for interesting exegesis on a verse in one of Paul expositions of resurrection doctrine, 1 Corinthians 15:39, “All flesh is not the same flesh: but one is the flesh of men, another of beasts, another of birds, another of fishes,” have so far returned very little for thinking about edibility and savor (granted, I’ve looked only in the PL, and not yet deeply). The exegetes seem to have failed me here, but Aquinas, may he be praised, has come to my rescue in his explanation for why Lent forbids humans the flesh of quadrupeds:

For, since such like animals are more like man in body, they afford greater pleasure as food, and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust.

If the consumption of animal red meat incites lust because of the flesh’s resemblance to human flesh, anthropophagy must be a very great pleasure indeed.

Following Žižek, I suppose, I want to track this certainty of the pleasure of human flesh as a “belief in belief,” as a way to imagine oneself—at least the fleshy self—as special by imagining one’s flesh as desired by others. I think of the story of Nicholas and the Three Clerks, a hagiographic horror story in which Nicholas asks a butcher for “better” flesh: the better flesh is the flesh of three murdered clerks, transformed by the butcher into pork pies. Nicholas’s desire for better flesh is what rescues the clerks from mere porcine animality, but, in the process, the story gives up a secret of human flesh and human identity.



In other words, human flesh in its edibility also belongs to the regime of control and pleasure to which the ‘flesh’ belongs in medieval ascetic systems, but with various differences having to do with violence and self-violence and human/animal relations that I’ve not quite got a handle on yet.

I’m surprised that no one’s yet mentioned the violence I’m doing to these texts, my willful damage to the particular contexts of things….

Curious about the use of the Wilhelm Stekel, which I read yesterday (alongside the Blumstein, Stephen, and the Price book on medieval Cannibalism). Many, many case studies, but the argument, what little there is of it, seems to boil down to cannibalism as an atavistic urge that occasionally bursts to the surface. For Stekel, the rest of the world is the past of the West.

The case study of the Lesbian 1/2-native american, 1/2-white vampire is one that he treats in two ways, one much more useful than the other. The useful way first:
“She had…to suffer all her life under the absurd hatred and scorn with which the white people in the colonies (and at home) look upon half-castes. Her whole pride revolted against this separation of men into two groups, one of which was placed on a level with the beasts. Vengeance upon the white race–that was her secret guiding motive. To drink the blood of the hated whites, was her secret craving. At the same time she would have been happy to have been white” (314).

But he also writes that “one can understand her sadism if one remembers that the wild blood of savages runs in her veins” (314) and that “Instead of adapting herself to the civilization of the white race, she fled in defiance to the savagery of her mother’s ancestors” (314).

I should say, not at all incidentally, that Stekel has already, almost interminably, presented the “civilization of the white race” as suffused with cannibalism, necrophilia, and vampirism. She is of a piece with the others.
– See more at:

Bits and pieces on anthropophagous animals

attempt2Many illustrations of the Last Judgment and Resurrection depict animals regurgitating human parts (the illustration for this post, taken from the nineteenth-century tracing of the Hortus deliciarum, is one such image). In these depictions, humans – or parts of humans – emerge only from animal mouths; they do not emerge from animal anuses, nor are they shown to be exuded or otherwise reconstituted from animal flesh. Regardless of what might have been thought to happen to human flesh during the term of the anthropophagous animal’s life, in the visual representations, humans have not passed through digestive tracks; they have not been assimilated; their flesh remains their own, promised to them for the coming Eternity. Seemingly like the en-whaled Jonah, they rest unaltered, if not wholly intact, in the belly of the beast until the Creator sees fit to undo the eating by bringing them back out the way they went in.


* * *

In the early second century, Ignatius of Antioch penned his Epistle to the Romans, a brief work in which he enthused over his coming martyrdom, eagerly hoping that the beasts of the arena would do their duty and devour him:

Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God. Entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep, I may not be found troublesome to any one.

This passage has been interpreted as one in which Ignatius turns his body, through martyrdom, into the Eucharist; Bynum tracks its efforts to promise continuity of self even in those moments when it seems to be in danger of utter dissolution (Resurrection 27). Ignatius pictures the “breakings, tearing . . . . separations of bones[,] . . . . cutting off of members[, and] . . . bruising to pieces of the whole body” that he will undergo. Yet Ignatius describes his final end also as something far more mundane: he is wheat turned into bread; he has, in a common image, fallen asleep; he is the body laid to rest in the tomb of these beasts. The latter image is especially arresting. He hopes that nothing will remain of him – no relic – over which any Christian might expend any care. Presumably such a hope would be vain for the arena, given that even the most ravenous — or fastidious — of beasts leave behind scraps of carrion; but it would not be a vain hope for a burial, as even the sloppiest of burials tend not to leave pieces behind. Although Ignatius will be devoured by beasts, he resists the wildness of it by imagining what is meant to be a humiliation as a banal, albeit pious, terminus of his life. He undoes the coming dispersal of his limbs into multiple animal stomachs through a metaphor that transforms these numerous temporary receptacles into a single tomb that will preserve his remains until the Last Judgment. In a manner of speaking, that burial is precisely what happened. After his martyrdom, nothing remained of him “but the harder portions of his holy remains,” which “were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by grace which was in the martyr.” His humble request that he not be preserved in the form of relics has not been honored, but the fact of his having been killed and consumed by animals is at least counterbalanced by his osteal preservation. He has been reassembled preparatory to the coming resurrection, and until then, his remains, his self partially in abeyance, will be preserved by the church. This end and enduring postmortem existence is presumably what he would have come to even if he had not been consumed by animals: his flesh would have turned to dust, his bones kept.

BARTSCH_800050The above story is the Greek version of Ignatius’s death. Some, but not all, versions translated into Latin (beginning with the Elogium ex Martyrologiis Adonis, translated into Latin by Bede) conclude differently. A typical version of this tradition follows:

Finally, after this, that he had been tormented by fire, and by beating and prison, the emperor did send for the Romans in a place and there did do set S. Ignatius, and did do bring thither two lions for to devour him. But he had never dread for death ne for other torments, of which he had suffered many, but was always comforted for to die for the love of Jesu Christ. And he said at the last: I am wheat of Jesu Christ, which ought to be grounden between the teeth of these beasts, by which I may be pure bread for to be presented to my Lord; and anon the lions came and strangled him without tearing of his flesh, or anything hurting it (in the Latin, præfocauerunt eum tantummodo, & non tetigerunt carnes eius), wherefor Trajan had great marvel and departed from the place.

What was originally a story in which a saint triumphs over eating is eventually altogether purged of eating. It becomes one of the many stories in which large predatory animals, otherwise notoriously anthropophagous, refuse to eat saints: e.g., the story of Cerbonius, Bishop of Populonia, who, in Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, is condemned to be eaten by a bear, but the bear only licks the saint’s feet and hands, acting “with a heart almost human”; or the stories of Vincent, Gordian, Primus, Felicianus, and Justina in the Golden Legend, all of whose exposed bodies remain uneaten by animals; or, even, although this is somewhat far afield, the assertion by a fourteenth-century cynegetic manual that Acteon’s dogs, even though their master had been transformed into a stag, refused to eat him. Both versions of Ignatius’s martyrdom essentially tell the same tale of the failure of animal violence: in each, Ignatius resists being eaten and incorporated, in one by imagining his own swallowed body as a buried body, in the other by showing, even before the resurrection, the perdurability of flesh promised him for Eternity: subject to the power of God, the lions may only smother, so respecting the integrity of the sacred body. In the earlier narrative they may tear the saint to pieces, but nevertheless his relics persist. At any rate, what the lions ate would cease to be theirs once the lions passed into the nothingness of a merely animal death. Animals may be able to eat humans, digestion might join human with animal flesh, but this transformation is temporary: they cannot retain this human as their own flesh. Because the animal was temporary, and the human eternal, the devouring lions of the earlier legend might as well be the smothering lions of the Golden Legend.


Fuller cite for the Actaeon objection, by the way, is Gace de la Buigne, Roman de Déduits, “est bourde, si com je cuide, / que les chiens mengerent leur maistre” (I think it is a lie that dogs ever ate their master). This objection also appears as early as the time of Aristotle, in Palaephatus. On Unbelievable Tales Jacob Stern, trans. Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1996:

“They say that Actaeon was devoured by his own dogs. But the story is false, for a dog is most affectionate toward its master and provider, and hunting dogs in particular fawn on everyone” (38).

This book also has the following marvelous (or disenchantifantastic) passage:

“What is said about the Centaurs is that they were beasts with the overall shape of a horse — except for the head, which was human. But even if there are some people who believe that such a horse once existed, it is impossible. Horse and human natures are not compatible, nor are their foods the same: what a horse eats could not pass through the mouth and throat of a man. And if there ever was such a shape, it would also exist today” (30). –

…of course, the less interesting, but perhaps more accurate explanation, for the ‘human bits from animal mouths’ bit is that the animal mouth is a variant of the Hell Mouth, and Resurrection of the Flesh is conceived as a kind of Harrowing…

At any rate, that’s the kind of CYA I think I’d have to do were I ever to assemble some of the above things into an actual publication. –

Per Augustine: they may have been fully digested, but they’re nevertheless shown coming out the way they came in. It’s the exact reversal that interests me, a reversal despite the fact that many theologians knew–not the best verb, here, I know–perfectly well that the flesh of humans eaten by animals would be assimilated into animal flesh. In other words, I’m interested in the fact that what should be understood as a reconstitution is instead portrayed as an undoing, since the undoing strikes me as somewhat less miraculous. There seems to be a failure to imagine in visual form the very imaginative/doctrinal construct so necessary to the conviction of the lived and postmortem and coming Eternal permanence of self, as if the illustrators could not imagine how human flesh, mingled with, assimilated to, whatever, with animal flesh, could emerge, not from the mouth, but from the alien flesh that had become, in a (horrific) way, its own.

Per Ignatius: My notes on this, from the Acta Sanctorum, has the following instances in which Ignatius gets torn to pieces and devoured by the lions:

Simon Metaphraste:
dimissi leones eum statim dilacerarunt & deuorarunt

From Menaeis et Anthologio Graecor

Vnde productus in amphitheatrum a dimissis contra se leonibus discerptus est

Which may be compared to the Bede translation (the significant part quoted above, præfocauerunt eum tantummodo, & non tetigerunt carnes eius) and something the Acta Sanctorum lists only as Ex vetustissimis Mss. Latinis , which, likewise, says, & ex vtraque parte super eum incidentes præfocauerunt eum tantummodo, & non tetigerunt carnes eius.

What interests me is that in some stories–the earlier ones?–Ignatius gets torn to pieces and devoured; in the later ones, he gets killed, sometimes after several other torments(in a typical fashion) fail to kill him, but the lions only smother him (tantummodo is common, as if either to stress the miracle, or to stress the departure from generic expectations, I’m not sure), and, as the passiones make a point of mentioning, the lions do not eat him. This last point is especially interesting because it contradicts Ignatius’s wish to be consumed and to have the lions’ bodies be his (singular) tomb.* In other words, in the original story, we have a tension between Ignatius’s dismemberment and the reunification that the resurrection will effect, a tension given voice, but subtly, by the metaphorical transformation of multiple leonine stomachs into one tomb. In later stories (and I’m pretty sure they’re later), what’s only latent in the original becomes explicit: Ignatius never gets dismembered at all. On the one hand, he joins the set of saints whom animals refuse to dismember; on the other hand, the change introduces a willful incoherence into the passion that, to my mind, isn’t in fact so much introduced as heightened. He wants to be dismembered–as in the Bede passion, frumentum Christi sum, dentibus bestiarum molar, vt panis mundus inueniar–but the lions refuse it.

think that the average medieval person [and even the medieval theologian] knew, for a fact, that animals and even other humans could consume, digest, ground to bits,

Consume and ground to bits, yes, but nonetheless, there are some theologians who denied the capacity of animals to assimilate human flesh. Peter of Poitiers declared that neither humans nor animals assimilated anything to the truth of their nature. His argument’s a bit more extreme than other people who took similar positions, since in so doing, he preserves a continuity of selves even for nonhuman animals. In the second century, Athenagoras declared that creatures can assimilate only food that’s proper to them. Iirc, animals can’t assimilate human flesh, because eating people is not proper to animals (and, he added, that anthropophages will eventually starve to death if they subsist on a diet of only human flesh, since people shouldn’t eat people: Augustine countered by claiming that he’d seen people grow fat by eating people: I accept that Augustine’s making a point, but I don’t believe at all his claims of being a witness). William of Auxerre and Alexander of Hales revive Athenagoras’s argument (whether directly or not, I don’t know) in the 13th century. Quoting Alexander from Reynolds’ Food and the Body, 167, “there is an order in nature such that simple substances nourish plants, plants nourish beasts, and plants and beasts nourish human beings. Since human flesh is intended only to convert food and not to be converted as food, it is not appropriate nourishment for human beings [NOR, says I, for beasts, by implication]. But human flesh that has been generated from appropriate nutriment is not in the fullest sense the proper flesh of the one who has generated and possesses it: it has come from proper nutriment, but it is not proper flesh.”

* I’m reminded of the death of the wolf Ysengrimus, his being torn to pieces by the sow Salaura and her brood. Here’s my notes in part on that episode, Salaura says, ” ‘So let there be a change of names in both of us: you can be my Jonah and I’ll be your whale'” (537) (. . . . Mutetur nomen utrimque: / Sis michi tu Ionas et tibi Cetus ego. . .'” (ll. 374-5). Speaks of eating him as his ending up in her collection-box. Speaks of him as becoming a kind of relic and her stomach as a reliquary. He is parceled among the herd and “the pigs allowed less to survive that the least portion of a flea that has been cut into eight parts” (541) “parte minus minima porci superesse tulerunt, / Si fuerit partes sectus in octo pulex” (ll. 441-2) (from Mann, Jill. Ysengrimus: Text with Translation, Commentary, and Introduction. Mittellateinische Studien und Texte 12. Brill: Lieden, 1987). –

Nonetheless, it’s only a kind of body/self. As I’ve written here before, since the perfected body is a body preserved from all flux, what kind of body is it anyway? It’s a body that, in being purged of flux and weight, is not much of a body at all. All that has been preserved of the body is its borders, but that too is a reaction to ‘problem’ of the body, to wit, the permeability of its borders, where, in eating, evacuation, and, in fact, interacting with the world to form various assemblages, the membrane between inside and outside all too readily gives itself away as illusionary. In other words, a body with sure boundaries isn’t much of a body, either.


Now, the thing with Ignatius that I’ve never been able to answer satisfactorily is why the change in the story. The end result is the same–except in only one does he actually get to be, as he desires, torn to pieces–but the way there is startlingly different. Why the change? Being unable to answer that is in part what led me to cut that stuff from my diss. – See more at: