By Susan Signe Morrison (auth.)
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Additional resources for Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer’s Fecopoetics
97 The products of our bodies are not useful or beautiful like those of plants in nature: “Look at the plants and the trees—they produce flowers, foliage, and fruit; you produce nits, lice, and tapeworms. They pour forth oil, wine, and 40 E XC R E M E N T I N T H E L AT E M I DDL E AGE S balsam; you give off spit, urine, and dung. ”98 Even if we consume the fruit that Innocent praises, we can only produce something disgusting: “Gluttony demands a heavy tribute but gives the meanest returns: the more delicate the food, the more stinking the dung.
54 These insults function as “ jokes,” not for the victim, but within the dialogue between the insulter and his cohort. As Mary Douglas has shown, a joke “connects and disorganizes. ”55 To transform verbally the beard on one’s chin to excrement clearly is nonsensical and, hence, funny; it is insulting, though, in suggesting that the victim is less hairy than “normally” hirsute males, since manly attributes are valued in Icelandic culture. The filth of dung lends an added dimension of devaluation in the insult-joke.
The material filth coating the body works as an analogy for the spiritual and inner depths of sadness and despair. 59, dating c. 44 The location of his murder increases the abasement of his death. It was committed at Edmund’s moment of vulnerability and evident filth, which reveals his (and our) base nature. Excrement arouses horror and shame. Only the lowliest will work with dung, as most cultures seem to suggest, such as with the untouchables in India. ”45 To daub someone with shit is to equate them with dirt.