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Into the Hollow: Premodern Parts and (W)Holes

Evil-Merodach Speculum humanae salvation

My second project explores the ontology of cavities and body parts in medieval literature and art. The project asks how images of the hole and limb both threaten and excite, engulf and expunge. Medieval authors use cavities to assign value to bodies, spaces, and experiences. While medieval cavities take on many obvious forms - hell-mouths, bodily orifices, - these openings often interact with more ambiguous cavities such as purses, alembics, chests, and cairns. Medieval landscapes, too, are littered with holes; subterranean grottos, cavernous halls, burial mounds and treasure hoards render the land capable of enveloping all who encounter its cracks.


Into the Hollow draws on the medieval encyclopedic tradition, bestiaries, alchemical literature, and medieval allegory. Depictions of cavities in art, literature, and scientific texts uncovers the medieval hole as an analogical threat; yet to know how to avoid the danger of the hole, we must look inside to see the risk it contains.

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