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By Cary Howie (auth.)

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Extra info for Claustrophilia: The Erotics Of Enclosure In Medieval Literature

Sample text

The body might vanish: and is this necessarily preferable to her corpse, her body reduced to an immanent (which is to say: an empty) shell? It is just this risk that lies behind Silverman’s articulation of the look’s ability to make what it sees stand in for the “impossible nonobject of desire,” that object which I have earlier referred to as the Thing. My argument here can only brush hesitantly and clumsily against psychoanalysis, but it may be worth recalling that the Thing traditionally marks the most intensified site of the Real, that nameless, disordered psychic realm which is fundamentally, even constitutively desirable, but which can never be directly desired.

Is Benedict merely showing the ways in which virtuous monastic life (communal or eremitic) can be perverted if left without a regula? Or, given his obvious preference for communal life, is this taxonomy to be read as a scale of monastic virtue, with cenobites sliding into ambivalent hermits, and from there into unequivocally abominable sarabaites and, finally, the atopic wanderers? 6 Rather, what I want to emphasize is that the soft, the abominable, the indeterminately gathered (all descriptions with strong precedents in the biblical rhetoric of sexual transgression) are coupled with the restlessly wandering in a parody of monastic enclosure: the first group eating away at this enclosure from within; the second, roaming around it, refusing to be policed by its rule.

She embraces Jehan, who consequently “softens a little” (auques s’amolie; 1136), to the point of “having his way” with her (Que Jehans fist ses volentés; 1140). In the sex panic that follows, Jehan throws the girl in a well and destroys his hermitage. There follows a sort of parody, or at least inversion, of holy itinerancy:41 Jehan wanders the woods with murderous intent. Even when he repents and confesses his sins to the pope and a random hermit, he is able to receive neither forgiveness nor consolation.

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