Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective
Critical Inquiry, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 1-33
In a sense, of course, “the body” is the wrong topic. It is no topic or, perhaps, almost all topics. As many contemporary theorists point out, we no longer think there is such a thing as the body-a kind of “flesh dress” we take up, or put off, or
refurbish according to the latest style.2 What- ever our position on “antiessentialism” (and it is certainly true that many of the recent attacks on “essentialists” have been both intellectually im- precise and cruel), no one in the humanities seems really to feel comfort- able any longer with the idea of an essential “bodiliness.” We tend to reject both a “bodiliness” that is in some way prior to the genderings, sexings, colorings, or handicappings particular persons are subject to and a body that is easily separable from the feelings, consciousness, and thoughts that occur in it.