Mittelalter: Interdisziplinäre Forschung und Rezeptionsgeschichte, October, 4 (2013)
Let me start with a remark that may seem to be strange on first sight: Whenever an accident happens on a highway the result will be a traffic jam. That is quite easy to understand as it is a direct consequence of the accident. But from time to time we have an interesting phenomena: On the other side of the highway, where the cars drive in the opposite direction, will be a traffic jam as well – not as a direct result of the accident, no but for a reason that could be called “curious onlookers“. What seems to be abnormal or at least irritating – and probably really is – is as well an anthropological constant. There is some kind of fascination in terrible, evil and forbidden things.
As cars didn´t exist in the Middle Ages I don’t have any accidents for you to “enjoy” but only a few letters concerning deviant behaviour, disobedience, trouble of all kind and unpleasant affairs in general that might give you a little bit of this special pleasure. To be honest: When I was working on the letter collections of the archbishops of Canterbury I was much more attracted by the scandals than by letters that concerned things of really pleasurable nature. And I would like to share some of this pleasure with you. I shall not do this in the form of a great theory of pleasure in the Middle Ages as a whole or of pleasure as a subject of medieval letter collections – no, I would like to share this kind of feeling with you in a much more medieval way – as I believe – by giving you some examples.