IES Unfinished Business Seminar

IES Unfinished Business Seminar
2 December 2020, 1.00pm - 2.00pm

Katherine Hindley, 'Writing on the Body: Interacting with Charm Texts in Late Medieval England'

In the hope of surviving a difficult childbirth, a medieval woman might place a text written on wax in her bosom, eat words written on cheese, bind a piece of writing to her right thigh, or tie one at her navel.  Although medieval practitioners clearly viewed the words of written charms as having power, charm-texts often did not need to be read in order to take effect.  In some cases, the instructions even warned that if the patient were to read the text it might lose its healing power completely.  In examples such as the childbirth charms described above, interaction with the patient's body replaced the process of reading.  Drawing evidence from two hundred instructions for creating written charms found in manuscripts copied or owned in England between 1350 and 1500, this paper examines the variety of ways in which charms reimagine the normal relationship between texts and their users.

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