Northern Centre for the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities

Pybus: "The body in pain and tales of redemption and damnation during the wars of religion"

Added 19 October 2011 | Duration 45 minutes 51 seconds

Dr Luc Racaut, Newcastle University

In late medieval representations of the passion and public executions, the body in pain served adidactic function and followed a code that was well understood. This paper will focus on the representation of wounds in early modern print. It will be argued that wounds were liminal places not simply between the inside and the outside, but between the corporeal and the spiritual. The stigmata received by St Francis was a visible sign of his imitation of Christ, an outward sign of his inner election, a topos that was mirrored in tales of the exemplary deaths of martyrs and repentant criminals. In an inversion of this ‘sacred woundedness’, the perpetrators of violence on the bodies of heretics during the wars of religion were looking for visible signs of damnation or corruption inside their bodies - literally - worlds inside out. By the end of the sixteenth century the namelessness of the victims of massacres, and the shapelessness of their bodies, could no longer be reconciled with tales of individual martyrs that had featured in Protestant martyrologies to that point.

Dr Luc Racaut has worked on the French Wars of Religion in the second half of the sixteenth century. He has published extensively on the competing narratives produced by French Catholics and Protestants. Dr Racaut’s work shows the importance of print in such conflicts in shaping public opinion. He has received funding from the AHRC and the British Academy to pursue research on the role of print in Catholic reform. He has recently published articles on these themes in the journal French History and the Historical Journal. Dr Racaut’s current work focuses on the representation of the body in early modern media. His current project is titled ‘World Inside Out’. This project explores the didactic functions that the representation of wounds played in early modern French Protestant martyrologies

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