The Aristocratic Body and the Memory Economy of Church Reform, 900-1300 C.E.
This dissertation examines the “memory economy” of church reform from the late ninth through thirteenth centuries. It argues that monastic communities and aristocratic households of the period used the human body as a touchstone for the discussion of memory as a key stake in the social and political life of the high middle ages. The argument centers around several key sites of analysis: excommunication, burial, bodily wounding and mutilation, and liturgical cursing. Centering the analysis on these sites of cultural activity allows close readings of the complex dialectic which develops around memory. Using memory as the central focus of the study allows insight into the ways in which the semi-literate communities of the secular nobility participated in and drove the course of church reform, rather than functioning as mere sources of converts or sources of gifts. Doing so allows an intervention that shits the field of medieval memory studies away from manuscripts and narratives, and towards a methodology that puts activity and social practice at center stage.
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