Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Augustine's Embarrassing Bodies

There are accounts in pagan history of certain monstrous races of men ... some of these monsters are said to have only one eye ... others have the soles of their feet turned backwards behind their legs; others have the characteristics of both sexes ... Then there are men without mouths, who live only by inhaling through their nostrils; there are others whose height is only a cubit ... We are told in another place that there are females who conceive at the age of five and do not live beyond their eighth year. There is also a story of a race who have a single leg attached to their feet; they cannot bend their knee and yet have a remarkable turn of speed ... There are some men without necks, and with eyes in their shoulders.

What am I to say of the Cynocephali, whose dog's head and actual barking prove them to be animals rather than men?
City of God 16.8

Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. Others without moving the head can bring the whole scalp ... down toward the forehead and bring it back again at will. Some can swallow an incredible number of various articles and then with a slight contraction of the diaphragm, can produce, as if out of a bag, any article they please, in perfect condition. There are others who imitate the cries of birds and beasts and the voices of any other men, reproducing them so accurately as to be quite indistinguishable from the originals, unless they are seen. A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from the region. I know from my own experience of a man who used to sweat whenever he chose; and it is a well-known fact that some people can weep at will and shed floods of tears.
City of God 14.24

Via Virginia Burrus and Karmen MacKendrick's article in Apophatic Bodies: Negative Theology, Incarnation and Relationality

No comments: