Body Imaging and Religious Reform: The Corpse as Idol

Susan Zimmerman

in The Early Modern Corpse and Shakespeare's Theatre

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780748621033
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652198 | DOI:
Body Imaging and Religious Reform: The Corpse as Idol

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This chapter addresses the key issues in contestation from a reformist perspective, discussing the late medieval approaches to the paradox of the corpse, in theology and in iconographic and literary modes. The reformist attempts to demystify Catholic attitudes and practices concerning the material corpse are also explored. The chapter then investigates major shifts in the conceptualization of idols, primarily in terms of contrasting, parallel texts such as the late medieval martyrology the Legenda Aurea and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The relationship between the dead and the transfigured body was figured, finally, by the corpse, an encapsulating emblem for the polar contrasts encompassed by Christianity. Foxe's representation of the martyr's suffering body and the martyrology greatly differed from that of the Legenda Aurea. Foxe's martyrology and the homily on idolatry may be seen as complementary exercises in demystification, or, as better befits their polemical tone, exposé.

Keywords: corpse; Foxe; Legenda Aurea; Book of Martyrs; martyrology; martyr; Christianity; idols; reformist

Chapter.  33176 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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