Heads Will Roll

Decapitation in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination

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Editors: Larissa Tracy and Jeff Massey
The decapitation motif recurs in nearly all medieval and early modern genres, from saints' lives and epics to comedies and romances, yet decollation is often little regarded, save as a marker of humanity (that is, as the moment mortality exits) or inhumanity (that is, as the moment the supernatural enters). However, as a seat of reason, wisdom, and even the soul, the head has long been afforded a special place in the body politic, even when separated from its body proper. Capitalizing upon the enduring fascination with decapitation in European culture, this collection examines--through a variety of critical lenses--the recurring "roles/rolls" of severed human heads in the medieval and early modern imagination.
Contributors are Nicola Masciandaro, Mark Faulkner, Jay Paul Gates, Christine Cooper-Rompato, Dwayne Coleman, Mary Leech, Tina Boyer, Renée Ward, Andrew Fleck, Thomas Herron, Thea Cervone, and Asa Simon Mittman. Preface by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.
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Biographical Note

Larissa Tracy, Ph.D. (2000) in Medieval Literature, Trinity College, Dublin, is Associate Professor of Medieval Literature at Longwood University. She has published extensively on medieval texts with a specific focus on torture and brutality, including Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature (D.S. Brewer, 2012).
Jeff Massey, Ph.D. (2003) in English Literature (Certificate in Medieval Studies), Emory University, is Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at Molloy College. He has published variously (from Chaucer to Hardy) but voices a particular interest in literary monstrosity.

Table of contents

CONTENTS

Preface: Losing Your Head ........................................................................... vii
Jefffrey Jerome Cohen

Acknowledgements ........................................................................................ xi
List of Illustrations .......................................................................................... xiii
List of Contributors ........................................................................................ xv
Introduction ..................................................................................................... 1
Larissa Tracy and Jefff Massey

Non potest hoc corpus decollari: Beheading and the Impossible ...... 15
Nicola Masciandaro

EXECUTION AND HAGIOGRAPHY
“Like a Virgin”: The Reheading of St. Edmund and Monastic
Reform in Late-Tenth-Century England ............................................. 39
Mark Faulkner
A Crowning Achievement: The Royal Execution and Damnation
of Eadric Streona ........................................................................................ 53
Jay Paul Gates
Decapitation, Martyrdom, and Late Medieval Execution Practices
in The Book of Margery Kempe .............................................................. 73
Christine F. Cooper-Rompato

CONTINENTAL NARRATIVES OF PUNISHMENT AND OTHERING
Talking Heads in Hell: Dante’s Use of Severed Heads in Inferno .... 93
Dwayne C. Coleman
Severed Silence: Social Boundaries and Family Honor in
Boccaccio’s “Tale of Lisabetta” ............................................................... 115
Mary E. Leech
The Headless Giant: The Function of Severed Heads in the
Ahistorical (Aventiurehafte) Dietrich Epics ....................................... 137
Tina Boyer

ENGLISH ROMANCE AND REALITY
“To be a ‘Fleschhewere’ ”: Beheading, Butcher-Knights, and
Blood-Taboos in Octavian Imperator ................................................... 159
Renée Ward
The Werewolf at the Head Table: Metatheatric “subtlety”
in Arthur and Gorlagon ............................................................................ 183
Jefff Massey
“So he smote of hir hede by myssefortune”: The Real Price of the
Beheading Game in SGGK and Malory ............................................... 207
Larissa Tracy

EARLY MODERN PRACTICE AND IMAGINATION
“At the time of his death”: The Contested Narrative of Sir Walter
Ralegh’s Beheading .................................................................................... 235
Andrew Fleck
“Killing swine” and planting heads in Shakespeare’s Macbeth ......... 261
Thomas Herron
“Tucked Beneath Her Arm”: Culture, Ideology, and Fantasy in the
Curious Legend of Anne Boleyn ........................................................... 289
Thea Cervone
‟Answering the Call of the Severed Head” .............................................. 311
Asa Simon Mittman

Bibliography ..................................................................................................... 329
Index ................................................................................................................... 347
Illustrations

Readership

All those interested in medieval and early modern literature, decapitation and brutality, law and punishment, history and art history, cultural and genre studies, hagiography and phenomenology.

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