New Publication – Journal – Textual Practice Volume 30, 2016 – Issue 7: Prosthesis in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

 

Textual Practice

Volume 30, 2016

Issue 7: Prosthesis in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

Foreword [abstract]

Prosthesis, n.

  1. Grammar. The addition of a letter or syllable to the beginning of a word. […] 1553 T. Wilson Arte of Rhetorique iii. f. 94, Prosthesis. Of Addition. As thus. ‘He did all to berattle hym. Wherein appereth that a sillable is added to this vorde’ (rattle) […]

  2. a. The replacement of defective or absent parts of the body by artificial substitutes […] 1706 Phillips’s New World of Words […] In Surgery Prosthesis is taken for that which fills up what is wanting, as is to be seen in fistulous and hollow Ulcers, filled up with Flesh by that Art: Also the making of artificial Legs and Arms, when the natural ones are lost.

    (OED, s. v. ‘prosthesis’)

If we go back far enough, we find that the first acts of civilization were the use of tools […]. With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning […]. By means of spectacles he corrects defects in the lens of his own eye […]. Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person […]. Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times.11. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. Joan Riviere (London: The Hogarth Press, 1963), pp. 27–9.

(Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents)

A rhetorical ‘addition’ to a pre-existing ‘beginning’, a ‘replacement’ for that which is ‘defective or absent’, a technological, aesthetic mode of ‘correction’ that reveals a history of corporeal and psychic discontent: definitions and accounts of prosthesis turn repeatedly on the absences signalled by these ‘auxiliary organs’. Figured in prosthetic terms, the study of pre-modern prosthesis registers as an absence to which contemporary critical discourse gestures. In his seminal, cross-period study, Prosthesis, David Wills locates the Reformation as a moment of prosthetic ‘reformation’ that creates the technological, rhetorical and philosophical conditions for one type of beginning for prosthesis, marked also by the appearance of the word in Thomas Wilson’s 1553 text The Arte of Rhetorique.22. David Wills, Prosthesis (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 219–20.View all notes And yet, as Freud’s allusion to ‘the first tools of civilization’ as prostheses suggests, this figure has a much deeper, further reaching history. This special issue brings together scholars working on medieval and early modern literature and culture in order to reconsider that history and its implications for contemporary critical responses to prosthesis.Recent scholarship across a number of disciplines has given weight to the term ‘prosthesis’ as a tool of analysis with a variety of applications: it can characterise the act of literary and cultural criticism, or the effects of literature and the reading process, and it provides a means to articulate histories and experiences of disability.

3. For example, Wills, Prosthesis; David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000); Marquard Smith and Joanne Morra (eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006). Prosthesis is productive for literary and disability studies in particular because it invites us to explore the intersection between language and material, embodied and imagined worlds. These explorations, however, often consider prosthesis from the perspective of (technological, rhetorical and philosophical) conditions – heart transplants, bionic limbs, the novel, cyborgs, the virtual reality of a digital age – understood to be unavailable to the pre-modern. Essays in this volume seek to redress this imbalance in our critical discourse by examining prosthesis in its pre-modern contexts and showing that the significance of this figure for medieval and early modern writers extends far beyond its reach as a grammatical term.44. More work still needs to be done on the history of the word ‘prosthesis’. We are grateful to Rick Godden for bringing to our attention the forthcoming contribution to this history by Brandon Hawk, ‘Prosthesis: From Grammar to Medicine in the Earliest History of the Word’. We ask how medieval and early modern examples can challenge our assumptions about what prosthesis is and does. Can we consider prosthesis as ‘process’, always acting, always becoming? What literary, linguistic, technological or performative practices constitute prosthetic action? How do prostheses act on and orient or construct bodies, selves and communities? Does prosthesis heal, protect, reconstruct and connect, or does it expose corporeal vulnerability and the limits of language and embodied experience? How, in turn, do medieval and early modern representations of prosthesis shape or challenge assumptions about normative bodies and bodily integrity? Does pre-modern prosthesis, in all its iterations, figure sameness or difference? Asking these questions in historical context, we show that medieval and early modern prosthesis offers to speak to – and maybe even re-assemble – our present-day discourse on this subject.

Content

Foreword, Chloe Porter, Katie L. Walter & Margaret Healy, Pages: 1205-1207

Prosthesis and reformation: the Black Rubric and the reinvention of kneeling, Isabel Davis, Pages: 1209-1231

Wearing powerful words and objects: healing prosthetics, Margaret Healy, Pages: 1233-1251

Literary genre, medieval studies, and the prosthesis of disability, Julie Orlemanski, Pages: 1253-1272

Prosthetic ecologies: vulnerable bodies and the dismodern subject in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Richard H. Godden, Pages: 1273-1290

Prosthetic encounter and queer intersubjectivity in The Merchant of Venice, Allison P. Hobgood, Pages: 1291-1308

‘Happy, and without a name’: prosthetic identities on the early modern stage, Naomi Baker, Pages: 1309-1326

Prosthesis and the performance of beginnings in The Woman in the Moon, Chloe Porter, Pages: 1327-1344

Fragments for a medieval theory of prosthesis, Katie L. Walter, Pages: 1345-1363

 

Find more info and all articles on the journal’s website


Publié par

Ninon Dubourg (sharing info)

Ninon Dubourg is a current PhD candidate researcher in medieval history at the University of Paris Diderot - Paris 7, France. Her research interests include the laical and clerical physical impairments and disability in Medieval Europe (XII – XIV C), based on the petition and papal letters conserved in the Papal Archives of the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum. This kind of ecclesiastical document offers us a significant insight into the Church's comprehension of the social experience of disability. Disabled clerics had to ask the Pope for dispensation to contravene canon law - with regard to income or religious practices – necessitated by the circumstances of their disability. Papal dispensation letters, written in answer to such petitions, offered the cleric a number of ways out, from dispensation to pension, including resignation, in connection with the pope's administration and the potestas the Church had to solve this issues. The real lived experiences of a disabled cleric had to be reformulated in the petition in order to allow the Church to recognise his disability, and thus for him to receive papal grace. Working on many relative questions, she likes to approach new topics as disabled identity, medieval masculinities, medicine in the Middle Ages, biblical studies, canon law, medieval linguistic and so on. (https://univ-paris-diderot.academia.edu/NinonDubourg) She also teach Methodology to first year and Master degree and Medieval History at the University Paris Diderot - Paris 7 as ATER (temporary attaché). She is also a foreign associate member of the research network "Homo Debilis" at the Bremen University (http://www.homo-debilis.de/personen/index-en.html). Also member of the réseau jeunes chercheurs Handicap(s) et Sociétés, Programme Handicaps et Sociétés - EHESS, Paris. She is also in charge of the research blog History of Disease, Disability & Medicine in Medieval Europe, with the aim to promote this filed of research in France and in Europe and will make sure to share latest publishing events, future meeting (such as conference, colloquium, round table), and to relay call for paper or contribution on disability in pre-modern societies, with particular focus on Middle Ages. (https://dishist.hypotheses.org/) Ninon Dubourg est doctorante ATER en histoire médiévale à l'Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7, laboratoire ICT (Identité, Culture et Territoire, EA 337). Ses recherches sont menées sous la direction de Didier Lett (Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7) et de Julien Théry (Université Lumière Lyon 2). Ancienne allocataire chargée d'un mission d'enseignement (École Doctorale Économies, Espaces, Sociétés, Civilisations, ED 382) et boursière de l’École Française de Rome (Novembre 2014), son travail de thèse s'intitule « Handicap et infirmité clérical et laïque dans les suppliques et lettres pontificales de l'Europe médiévale (xiie – xive siècle) ». Ninon cherche dans son travail de thèse à questionner l'intégration de personnes infirmes dans le clergé et dans la société laïque ainsi que l'utilité que retire l’Église à aller contre les lois relatives à l'incapacité physique qu'elle a elle même édicté. Les sources qu'elle utilise, issues des registres de suppliques et de lettres des Archives secrètes du Vatican, entre normes et pratiques, permettent de voir comment la personne handicapée, clerc ou laïque, compte sur l'institution dont elle fait partie pour encadrer sa vie – et inversement, de capter le regard que pose l'institution sur ces personnes. Elle est aussi membre associée au réseau de recherche "Homo Debilis" de l'Université de Brême (Allemagne) (http://www.homo-debilis.de/personen/index-en.html). Aussi membre du réseau jeunes chercheurs Handicap(s) et Sociétés, Programme Handicaps et Sociétés - EHESS, Paris (http://phs.ehess.fr/?page_id=402). Elle est aussi gestionnaire du carnet de recherche hypothèse sur L'histoire du handicap, des maladies et de la médecine dans l'Europe médiévale. Son carnet souhaite promouvoir ce champ de recherche en France et en Europe et propose de veiller à partager les nouveautés éditoriales, les futures rencontres (conférences, colloque, journées d'études, tables ronde), mais aussi de relayer les appels à communication ou à contribution du handicap dans les sociétés pré-modernes, en se focalisant particulièrement sur l'époque médiévale. (https://dishist.hypotheses.org/)

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