Modified Bodies and Prosthesis in Medieval and Early Modern England

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Modified Bodies and Prosthesis

in Medieval and Early Modern England
A one-day Symposium organised by the Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies at the University of Sussex

Tuesday 27 May 2014, Arts B, Social Space (B274)

Registration details: there is no charge for attending the symposium; lunch and coffee will be provided.

To register, please complete the registration form and return, as email attachment, to Chloe Porter ( or Katie Walter (, by Monday 12 May 2014.

The notions of prosthesis and bodily modification increasingly preoccupy contemporary critical discourse, from disability studies to David Wills’ characterisation of the body as ‘a prosthesis’. Such contemporary explorations can preclude or overlook the ‘pre’ or the ‘early’ modern; ‘prosthesis’ itself, as a term for medical or bodily (rather than grammatical) supplementation doesn’t appear until the eighteenth century. Yet a growing body of scholarship recognises both the particular ways in which medieval and early modern technologies modify the body, and the significance of notions of ‘prosthesis’ for literary interpretation and cultural analysis in these periods. This one-day symposium draws together new scholarship on bodily modification and prosthesis, from facial disfigurement and the disabled soldier’s body, to bodily practices – such as kneeling, dress, and the use of charms in healing – which may modify, or become extensions of the body. How can medieval and early modern modified bodies be contextualised in relation to philosophical and theological understandings of the natural human body and the body post-mortem? And how can these historical contexts participate in contemporary critical discourse? Through an interdisciplinary discussion, we will ask what medieval and early modern examples reveal about the historical, philosophical and (literary) theoretical possibilities of prosthesis.
10.45-11.00 Registration

11.00-12.30 Session 1
Patricia Skinner (Swansea) ‘“My broken nose made me ridiculous”: Unwanted Facial Modifications in the Middle Ages’
Helen Davies (Lancaster) ‘“Nature cannot be surpassed by art”: The Power of Prosthetics in the Body of the Soldier’
Margaret Healy (Sussex) ‘Healing Prosthetics: Word Charms, Amulets and Talismen’
12.30-1.30 Lunch

1.30-2.45 Session 2
Chloe Porter (Sussex) ‘Post-mortem Prosthesis: Modified Bodies and the Early Modern Afterlife’
Naomi Baker (Manchester) ‘“The body of this death”: Paul and Disability on the Early Modern Stage’
2.45-3.15 Coffee

3.15-4.45 Session 3
Isabel Davis (Birkbeck) ‘Kneeling’
Jenny Tiramani (School of Historical Dress) ‘The Rise and Fall of Geometry: The Development of Underpinnings in Early Modern Europe’
Katie Walter (Sussex) ‘Plasticity and Prosthesis’
4.45-5.00 Break

5.00-6.00 Session 4: Response and Round Table with Peter Boxall (Sussex)

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