Item – Theses Canada

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Noble, Louise Christine,1949-
Corpus salubre : medicinal cannibalism in early modern English culture.
Ph. D. -- Queen's University, 2002
Ottawa : National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, [2003]
3 microfiches.
Includes bibliographical references.
My study explores the implications of the fact that in early modern England human body parts and excretions were consumed for healing purposes. Specifically I examine the paradox of cannibalism in the late sixteenth and the early seventeenth century, when the ingestion of human flesh, constituted as at once civilized, in medical discourses, and barbaric, in religious discourses, is shadowed by the figure of the geographically distant Other constructed in European colonialist discourses as cannibal. These conflicting understandings of cannibalism, found in medical doctrines and pharmacopoea which valorize the therapeutic ingestion of specially-prepared human body parts, and in anti-papal Protestant tracts which condemn the Catholic Eucharist as a cannibalistic ritual, provide an historical frame for considering how literary representations negotiate such complex and contradictory understandings of what it means for one human to eat the flesh of another. While I assemble texts from a range of discourses, I am specifically interested in literature as a multifaceted space where cultural contradictions intersect in dangerous ways. In the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, and Nashe, the paradox inherent in conflicting colonial, religious and medical conceptualizations and regulations of the eaten body is richly exposed. In different ways their texts reveal the complex irony evident when the uncanny resemblance between the medical consumption of corpses and the eating of human flesh is repressed--the savagery of cannibalism abominated and attributed to others--only to return to haunt the Europeans. Beginning with an historical analysis of the practice of early modern corpse pharmacology in Chapter l, I proceed to show in Chapter 2 how this practice is interrogated in 'Titus Andronicus' and ' The Unfortunate Traveller' in the light of European notions of civility that confound attempts to construct the foreign Other as cannibal and barbaric. The discussion of the medical consumption of corpses leads inevitably, in Chapter 3, to an analysis of the cultural contradictions inherent, as ' The Faerie Queene' and the 'Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions ' show, when the medical ingestion of the human corpse is socially tolerated, while at the same time the religious ingestion of Christ's corpse in the Catholic eucharist is abjected in anti-papal Reformist rhetoric. Chapter 4 interrogates how the privileging of the virginal female corpse in medical discourse is employed metaphorically in 'Othello' and the ' Anniversaries' to construct the troubling female body as a curative, both medical and spiritual, for ailing masculinity. In the final analysis, my focus on literary preoccupations with the eaten body keeps returning me to the fact that the written text, in its engagement with uncomfortable cultural contradictions and ideologies, is a cultural document that reflects, and makes understandable, the complexities of the historical moment of its production.