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Images Of Identity And The Identity Of Images

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Chapter Summary

The medieval insult of ugliness (difformitas) played upon and thus in part reveals aspects of the medieval concepts of identity and personhood. This chapter analyzes a specific episode of aggressiveness in twelfth-century France. Medieval invectives could constitute an infraction and thus might be legally punished as threats to the social and eschatological orders, yet they could also be manipulated to serve as tools for the preservation of society and religion. The chapter considers how narratives of transgressions crossed social, ethical, and esthetic codes, breaching and mobilizing them in the process of constituting themselves as insults. Such invectives transgressed, paradoxically, even as they followed existing contemporary rhetorical rules for the expression of vituperation. Arnulf's articulation of his insulting rhetoric around breaches of form and deformations of image reveals a deep anxiety about the perceived malleability of man and society, their susceptibility to various impressions, the fluidity of their boundaries.

Keywords:difformitas; identity; individuality; medieval invectives



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