Metzler, Irina, Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking about Physical Impairment in the High Middle Ages

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Metzler, Irina, Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking about Physical Impairment in the High Middle Ages, c. 1100-c. 1400 (Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture 5), New York, Routledge, 2010; paperback; pp. 356; R.R.P. US$39.95; ISBN 9780415582049.

Disability in Medieval Europe foregrounds itself as 'the first book that comprehensively describes disability and physical impairment in the Middle Ages'. You open the cover, and there that sentence is, raising the reader's expectations. It is perhaps then both understandable and a bit disappointing that so much of the book is essentially a reiteration of that claim.

Disability in Medieval Europe is an adapted thesis, and it reads as such. It is heavy with theory and academic language, as rarefied and arcane as one of the medieval theological texts it later utilizes in considering spiritual approaches to the body. The prose seems to be almost too intellectual and too steeped in linguistic turns and analysis, as if the text wishes to justify its own existence on every single page through telling you its origins rather than showing its strengths. Irina Metzler first argues at length why no other text actually provides a decent framework or background for her purposes, apparently in order to demonstrate why previous research has lacked depth or real academic purpose.

Ultimately this is disappointing. …