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IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 541: The Thresholds of Death

Tuesday 7 July 2020, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Blake Gutt, Department of French, University of Cambridge
Paper 541-aDeath Drive and the Maiden: Carving Out Queer Space in the Works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim
(Language: English)
Philip Liston-Kraft, Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Latin, Sexuality
Paper 541-b'Venite alle mie grotte': Cato and the Liminal Geography of Suicide in Dante's Commedia
(Language: English)
Emma Louise Barlow, Department of Italian Studies, University of Sydney
Index terms: Language and Literature - Italian, Mentalities
Paper 541-cThe Communality of Death in Late Medieval Miracle Testimonies
(Language: English)
Jyrki Nissi, School of Social Sciences & Humanities, University of Tampere
Index terms: Daily Life, Hagiography, Religious Life, Social History

Paper -a:
Hrotsvit of Gandersheim evinced a keen interest in all matters sexual, while at the same time advocating her particular theology of virginity. Her dramas portray a range of transgressive behaviors, from the Roman general who makes delusional love to kitchen pots and pans, to a sodomitic caliph who importunes a beautiful male martyr to submit to his desires. It is not Hrotsvit’s attention to polymorphous sexuality in and of itself that defines her writings as queer, but rather her contraposition of the unruliness of the sexual drive, to a form of virginity linked to death. Hrotsvit examines what Teresa de Lauretis terms a 'heterotopic space' - a queer space - in which the sexual and death drives engage in a continuing battle for sovereignty over human existence. And while Hrotsvit may seek to set distinct borders between the respective domains of sex and death, those boundaries prove to be all too porous.

Paper -b:
The coast plays a crucial role in the narrative of Dante’s Cato; the 'veglio solo' acts as a distorted guardian of liberty in Purgatory from his 'grotte'. The transitory sea space necessitates the coast, a space reserved for the unknown and peripheral (littoral and liminal), and both are intertwined with the multifaceted portrait of suicide painted in the Commedia. This paper examines the intrinsic liminality of the Purgatorio 1 shore in order to revitalise our perspective on Dante's depiction of suicide, sketching a phenomenology of self-destruction that also challenges the silence and taboo that act as barriers to our appreciation of this literary topos.

Paper -c:
Resurrection miracles of medieval canonization processes and miracle collections show how people participated in someone's moment of death. The acts and rituals of death will be the subject of this paper. Some of the acts were done around the dying but others outside the house. Thus the communality of death was not restricted to the house where the dying was lying. Walls of a house did not form a social barrier between the actors but the actions performed out in the city could be as important for the community as those performed in the vicinity of the dying.