In this poem, bodies are the battlefield upon which contests of chivalry, courtliness, and identity are fought. While the action moves through a series of bodies – the description of the Green Knight, the arming of Gawain, the ancient Morgan, the seductive Lady Bertilak, the dismemberment of Bertilak’s prey, the nick on Gawain’s neck, and the ‘girdling’ of the courtiers – it is the monstrous shape-shifters, the hyper-masculine Green Knight and the post-feminine Morgan Le Fay, whose bodies receive the most detailed attention. Gawain seeks to cement his own identity as the epitome of Arthur’s court, but what chance has he against those whose bodies are fundamentally unstable and other?
Monstrous men appear on a number of medieval mappae mundi, as image, text, or sometimes both. The minuscule 13th-century Psalter Map offers us an unlabelled line-up of miniature portraits of monstrous men, some of whom have still not been satisfactorily identified. This paper looks to give a definitive ID of each of the 14 individual characters, and offer observations regarding their carefully-arranged order on the map, focusing on the artist’s use of pairings, gesture, and categories of ‘other’ to make explicit in miniature the various perceived natures of these strange and distant peoples.
Medieval wall paintings display the divine bodies of Christ, saints, and other biblical characters. But amidst these otherworldly figures are other kinds of bodies. They can be devilish, monstrous, semi-human, or plain ambiguous. These types of bodies are often labelled under the category of the ‘other’. But what do the visualisations of these ‘other’ bodies mean in the context of religious ritual? This paper focuses on the representations of bodies that seem to elude distinctive, definable form, and discusses the ways ambiguous embodiment can facilitate devotional practice in a religious context.