In “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer” the narrator’s isolation is augmented by their struggles with great attention to the natural world around them. Is nature in either work posed against the human figure? How is nature characterized in terms of the divine or supernatural?
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.
What significance does the supernatural ability of the herb granted by the weasels have in the story of Eliduc? What does this say about how Marie de France feels about nature in general with regards to human life and death?
Both stories show mythical beings that have the physical form of animals (nature) and yet embody very human characteristics. What significance does the hybridity of each creature (nature and human) hold and what does this imply about medieval attitudes about nature?
In Guigemar, it is a deer, part of nature, who curses him with the words “The pain an anguish she shall have – greater than ever woman has known – shall wound you too and be your own. Many shall marvel and be aghast – lovers present, and lovers past, lovers who will love by and by. Now go: leave me to die.” [116-122] However, this curse ultimately leads to Guigemar’s openness to finding love and his eventual happiness. How does Marie de France’s portrayal of nature as the activating force in Guigemar’s romantic journey align with more contemporary works regarding nature? How is it nature portrayed differently here?