M500 | 29774 | H. Keller

The Body in the Middle Ages and Early Modernity
Prof. Hildegard Elisabeth Keller
Indiana University Bloomington ,  Germanic Languages ,   Fall 2011
Thursdays 4:00-6:30 pm

The human body is a very special vessel in the Christian world-view
precisely because it is considered to be a vessel – on the one hand
made of fragile, even futile stuff, on the other hand ennobled by the
breath it contains. The human body connects Man and God. Therefore it
was confronted with praise as well as loathing. This ambivalence finds
its fiercest expression in medieval and early modern sources. An
overview of medieval practices and discourses concerning the body
therefore provides an ideal introduction for newcomers in Medieval
Studies to the fascinating interconnection between theology and

This introduction also has a practical goal, a hands-on approach. In
the course of the semester we will access primary materials that are
available on campus: manuscripts and prints at the Lilly Library. We
could not have a better means to approach the topic of this course:
The medieval codex connects skin and parchment, blood and ink, hence
body and book in all of their interrelationships in manifold material
and thematic ways.
The seminar aims to bring together advanced students from a variety of
fields, including, but not limited to, literature of the European
Middle Ages, religion, and the history of art. Our goal is to reach a
methodically broad knowledge of the topics, texts and pictorial
material, including working with the resources at the Lilly Library at
Indiana University and with the wealth of digitized manuscripts and
prints that are now online.
Our readings will include saints’ legends (George, Francis, Felix and
Regula), visions (Hildegard von Bingen, Hadewijch), monastic rules,
medical texts (Vesalius, Ruf), and other treatises.

You are expected to lead two class discussions, to complete a creative
assignment (manuscript design) and to complete two written assignments
(a 2-3 page paper by midterm and a 7-8 pages paper by the end of the
seminar or, for those who prefer, a 10-12 pages paper by the end of
the seminar). Reckon with my assistance in defining the resources and
the key questions in your paper.
Required texts
A reader with primary materials and research texts will be available
on on-line.