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Flaying in the Pre-Modern World: Practice and Representation [Book Review]

Brown, Warren C. (2019) Flaying in the Pre-Modern World: Practice and Representation [Book Review]. Speculum, 94 (1). pp. 204-206. ISSN 0038-7134. doi:10.1086/700708.

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Flaying has a different sort of purpose: to understand the relationship in the premodern West between the actual practice of skinning people and the ways that images of flaying were deployed in literature and art. Here too, human skin is a medium for marking, othering, and sending messages about identity, through its visible injury and removal but also through its display and repurposing; as the editor Larissa Tracy notes in her introduction, “[s]kin is the parchment upon which identity is written” (1). The volume shares with Geltner’s the impulse to push back against the trope of premodernity as barbaric. Flaying, we read repeatedly, was in actual practice scarce, and when it was used, it was primarily associated with treason. It was much more an idea, a phenomenon that had a variety of meanings in a variety of contexts and could therefore be deployed rhetorically and artistically in pursuit of a wide range of social, political, religious or literary and artistic goals—precisely because it was so uncommon in practice and only used in the most extreme circumstances.

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Additional Information:© 2019 by the Medieval Academy of America. Book review of: Larissa Tracy, ed., Flaying in the Pre-Modern World: Practice and Representation. Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2017. Pp. xviii, 406; many black-and-white figures. ISBN: 978-1-84384-452-5.
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Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190104-082139049
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Official Citation:Larissa Tracy, ed., Flaying in the Pre-Modern World: Practice and Representation Warren C. Brown. Speculum 2019 94:1, 204-206
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:92083
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Jan 2019 17:58
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 03:46

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