Form and Foreskin: Medieval Narratives of Circumcision

Form and Foreskin: Medieval Narratives of Circumcision

by A. W. Strouse


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Why did Saint Augustine ask God to "circumcise [his] lips"? Why does Sir Gawain cut off the Green Knight's head on the Feast of the Circumcision? Is Chaucer's Wife of Bath actually-as an early glossator figures her-a foreskin? And why did Ezra Pound claim that he had incubated The Waste Land inside of his uncut member? In this little book, A. W. Strouse excavates a poetics of the foreskin, uncovering how Patristic theologies of circumcision came to structure medieval European literary aesthetics. Following the writings of Saint Paul, "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" become key terms for theorizing language-especially the dichotomies between the mere text and its extended exegesis, between brevity and longwindedness, between wisdom and folly. Form and Foreskin looks to three works: a peculiar story by Saint Augustine about a boy with the long foreskin; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale. By examining literary scenes of cutting and stretching, Strouse exposes how Patristic treatments of circumcision queerly govern medieval poetics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823294756
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 04/13/2021
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

A.W. Strouse is a poet and an adjunct professor of medieval literature, as well as the author of many scholarly articles, poems, and art projects.

Table of Contents

Introduction | 1

1. The Gospel According to the Foreskin | 11

2. Saint Augustine and the Boy with the Long Foreskin | 32

3. Nicking Sir Gawain | 50

4. The Foreskin of Marriage | 82

Coda | 103

Acknowledgments | 109
Notes | 111
Index | 151

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