Middlemass Rachel, Bodies of men: manhood and masculinity in England and northern France, c.1100-c.1250
Middlemass Rachel, Bodies of men: manhood and masculinity in England and northern France, c.1100-c.1250, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2013, (dir. R. Balzaretti, J. Barrow, University of Nottingham)
This study responds to a gap in the existing historiography of medieval men and masculinities around the relationships between corporeality, gender identity, group membership. and social inequality. It aims primarily to elucidate the significance of the physical body to medieval masculine ideals and its role in processes of social categorisation which privileged most men over most women, and some men over others. In particular. I focus here on the ways in which culturally specific – but surprisingly coherent – discourses about and narrative representations of the body were used to construct prototypical models of manhood. principally via claims of polarisation from and superiority to corporeally distinct “others’. The analysis presented here is undertaken within a framework which borrows from anthropological and sociological methodologies, incorporating a dual focus on the ‘natural’ or essential, as well as the socially-constructed and discursive facets of the body. The body is viewed throughout as playing a simultaneously representational and instrumental role in the construction of both individual and collective identities. It is understood here both as a vehicle for the expression of those identities and as an active agent in their production; both a product of the behavioural codes prescribed for men and a site for and resource in men’s alignment with or resistance to these codes. It is likewise accorded agency in the unequal attribution of social status to both individual male bodies and collectives thereof. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of multiple ‘capitals’, the body is treated as a cultural asset whose unequal distribution, like any other form of capital, is hypothesised here to have played a role in the institution and maintenance of deep social divisions between medieval men.