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A case study of clerical masculinities and male bodies in late medieval Iceland

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 12:00 to 13:00
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The male body could be regarded as an important asset in performing masculinity. What type of body – appearances, abilities and skills – that is most valued, and perceived as masculine, varies depending on the context. In medieval clerical masculinities, the chaste and controlled body was idealized. Furthermore, to become ordained it was required to have a complete and undamaged body. Those who did not live up to these high standards could, however, supplicate for dispensation at the Apostolic Penitentiary. There are supplications from the Nordic counties regarding for example impaired vision and injured fingers. An important prerequisite for dispensation was that the impairment posed no obstacle to performing service. Here I will present a work in progress, where the skeletal remains of medieval canons, buried at the Augustinian monastery Skriðuklaustur, Iceland, are examined, and their bodies are related to the ideal of perfection. Particularly I will discuss the mouth, and how the loss of teeth could have an impact on both on appearance and on the ability to perform clerical masculinity. 


Elin Ahlin Sundman is a PhD student in archaeology at the University of Iceland. She has an MA in archaeology and osteology from Stockholm University, Sweden. Her current research focuses on medieval gender relations.


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A case study of clerical masculinities and male bodies in late medieval Iceland