Sins of Tongues, Pains of Members: Speech, Division and Sacrament in Late Medieval Exempla
Marginalia, Vol. 6, (2006-2007) Cambridge Yearbook
Late medieval exempla teem with burned and chewed tongues, cleaved bodies, engorged genitals and rotting corpses. Designed both to engage and instruct, effective exempla ‘removent taedium’ and ‘somnolentiam fugant’ in the visceral details of the pains and sufferings of sinners. While exempla occur throughout the classical period and the earlier Middle Ages, it is generally agreed that the genre changes around the thirteenth century. In translating abstract sins into compelling and memorable tales, the late medieval exemplum reflects the proliferation of the mendicant orders and the widening audience for instructive tales.