Cases and Clauses: The Language of Exclusion in Byzantium

Cases and Clauses: The Language of Exclusion in Byzantium

By Rosemary Morris

Toleration and Repression in the Middle Ages (2002)

Introduction: The cultural history of anger, like that of humour, is a history which takes us to the root of the definition of the other. An outcome of anger is often the declaration that the particular target of rage is alien to the group to which one attaches oneself; whether it be defined by nationality, by race, by religion or by sexual orientation. Thus by studying the language of anger and insult in a particular historical context, it is possible to arrive at some identifications of beliefs and attitudes which are not to be accepted or tolerated by groups within contemporary society.

But actually preserving an insult is a rather difficult matter. For insults, like jokes (which again provide a good source of social or ethnic identification) are an essentially oral form. Insults can, of course, be written down, but this is always a more dangerous pastime than simply shouting them. So studying written insults is, in fact, an aspect of a much wider area of interest to historians: the process by which, and the circumstances in which originally oral processes are transferred to writing.

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