By Susanne Scholz (auth.)
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Extra resources for Body Narratives: Writing the Nation and Fashioning the Subject in Early Modern England
Here, at a very early date, ‘madnesse’ is cast in opposition to reason, which turns men from ‘foolish’ nature to culture: ‘We should be children still all the time of our riper yeares & in our extreame age: and waxe as very fooles with gray hoary heads, as when we were very babes: if it were not that reason, which increaseth in vs with our yeares, subdueth affections in vs, and growen to perfection, transformeth vs from beastes in to men’ (G99/100). Grotesque imagery here not only renders the ‘exterritorialized’ parts as bestial, to be subjected to the government of reason; it also represents the gentleman as emerging from the matrix of the animal world which not only contains his body, this materiality which he shares with nature, but also women and the lower classes.
5/6) Contrary to Erasmus’ well-known instructions on the medical necessity of breaking wind, hygienic considerations are here subjected to notions of propriety. Similar to other unmentionable but unavoidable evacuations, like vomiting, excretion in general is cast as ‘of nature’ and consequently to be done in private: ‘Go asyde whan thou must vomyte, for it is no rebuke to vomyte, but to vomyte of superfluitie is shameful’ (E: A8v). The action done in private, it seems, is non-existent in the public domain; not only the actual substances, but also the body parts associated with them, are being split off and cast as not really belonging to the subject’s body.
It seems that, ultimately, corporeality itself is conceived as an illness which must be purged so that the subject can emerge as virtually bodiless. The intended ‘purifying of wit’28 accomplished by the internalization of government in fact amounts to a complete denial of the body. What remains is a fortified container that can be moulded according to the culture’s requirements and can thus afford an appropriate locus of subjectivity. The ideal outcome of this process of restructuring the body is pictured in the poem’s prime instance of the well-tempered body, Alma’s castle.