In 1425, Parisians under Anglo-Burgundian rule during the Hundred Years War enjoyed the spectacle of blind men in armor attempting to club a pig to death, in the process clubbing one another. Marginal images in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264, a Flemish Romance of Alexander copied and illuminated roughly eighty years earlier, closely resemble this so-called game, and a dozen cities recorded iterations beginning in the thirteenth century and continuing into the fifteenth. The repetition suggests the workings of a scenario, which performance studies theorist Diana Taylor defines as a condensation of embodied practice and knowledge reactivated in multiple times and places to transmit culture from person to living person. Reading through the Bodley 264 Romance of Alexander in order to clarify the scenario's specific function in its Parisian context, this article argues that the strategic battering of marginal beings served to transmit a hierarchically ordered culture while forcefully expelling the Armagnac faction from the hierarchy's highest rank. Within this stark example of public violence that performatively materialized political division, the bodies of pigs and blind men resonated with multiple identity categories, and the dominant group whose power and cohesion the entertainment reinforced both ignored and enjoyed their trauma.
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Research Article| September 01 2021
Marla Carlson; Marginal Performances by Late Medieval Pigs and Blind Men. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2021; 51 (3): 397–429. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-9295009
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