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The Public Welfare: Pollution And Purgation

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Chapter Summary

This chapter seeks to investigate how religious perspectives on spiritual disorders migrated into legal definitions of public hazards and how religious remedies became incorporated in jurisprudence. To clarify the perceptions that the suspected culpability of Theutberga was a matter of public concern, the chapter explores what seem to modern eyes the quaint and sometimes horrifying constructs of religious pollution and purgation that were part of the early medieval discourse about disordered sex and thought and their public impact. To understand some of the rationales that undergirded medieval (and perhaps modern) jurisprudence, it is useful to investigate the medieval rhetoric that developed around the concepts of pollution and purgation. The chapter shows how tacit religious beliefs, by their entry into Carolingian written discourse, shaped ideas both about the use of law to protect the public and also the use of purgation as a legal remedy.

Keywords: medieval jurisprudence; public hazards; purgation; religious pollution



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