February 24, 2009

History From the Bottom Up

You may have thought I was kidding when I complained that Susan S. Morrison’s book Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer's Fecopoetics had been overlooked for this year's Diagram Prize.

I wasn’t! However, I am now convinced that the book itself is a practical joke concocted by a conspiracy of medievalist scholars who are chuckling up their sleeves even now. How else to explain the publisher’s description which states Morrison concludes by proposing Waste Studies as a new field of ethical and moral criticism for literary scholars.”

Fecopoetics indeed. Nice try, Ms. Morrison! Even better was how you enlisted a number of clever yet transparently false reviews. A sampling:
A pungent and salutary whiff from the dunghills of European history.” Jeff Persels, co-editor of Fecal Matters in Early Modern Literature and Art: Studies in Scatology

“Morrison's... study of excrement in the late Middle Ages... [is] hands-on or, more precisely, pants-down.”* Times Higher Education

“If you thought there was something crappy about the Middle Ages, you'd be right. This book rubs our nose in the excremental poetries and culture [of the Middle Ages]….In the end, we realize that a critique of s*** is a critique of culture.” Michael Uebel, author of Ecstatic Transformation: On the Uses of Alterity in the Middle Ages

History from the bottom up has never been so surprising or so much fun— a bathroom book for scholars.” C. David Benson, Professor of English, University of Connecticut
I rest my case: There is no possible way this is an actual book. (Order yours today!)

* A remarkable sentence from this review reads:
The great privy of medieval literature spreads this scatological imperative across a wide variety of discourses to do with morality, gender, alchemy, medicine, race and, as Morrison most forcefully demonstrates, canonical debates around religious orthodoxy, to do with such issues as the function of purgatory (etymologically related to purge) or transubstantiation.

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