Paper Proposal: “Body vs. Soul: The Medieval Identity”

This paper intends to analyze several examples of medieval body and soul debate poetry including the Debate of the Body and Soul and A Disputation Between the Body and the Worms in order to unveil medieval ideals regarding the identity conjunct with physicality. This paper actually stems from ideas noted in my final paper for the class “Posthumanism” wherein I analyzed Marie de France and other, more contemporary tales about werewolves and other human/animal hybrids and considered what these beings say about how much of our human identity is due to our physical form and nature. Of course, these debates are more closely related to death and religiosity and how the loss of the body affects the identity of the person as medieval peoples understand it. More generally, the paper will assess the ways in which the body is tied to the natural world while the soul or spirit goes beyond it and how that challenges the notion of a single identity. Often times in these debates, the body and soul argue and come to a consensus. However, the fact that both are conscious with a single identity complicates the idea that they can argue and come to a resolution. I intend to work most closely with Riyef’s “Dualism in Old English Literature” wherein he stresses the inherent dualism of the body and soul within medieval debate poetry and how that greatly changes the perspective of resolution often presented in such works. His consideration of this dualism will lend me support when claiming the affects of this on identity as a whole.

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