Academic journal article Parergon

Exile and Imprisonment in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Academic journal article Parergon

Exile and Imprisonment in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Article excerpt

I. The Intertwined and Discrete Experiences of Confinement and Captivity

My Singular Lady and Queen, the only comfort and remedy to my weary and difficult life [...] all my hope and good health to live, on You only depends [...] in only You my every thought is transmuted; and for which reason, my troubled spirit is no longer my own: but Yours to restore [...] in You I hope, of You I think, in You consists all that is good for me [...] and the soul, life: all are Yours, and only You are able to save me or allow me to perish [...] that my fate has made a prisoner of me to You and tied me with indissoluble chains [...]. (1)

In this anonymous fifteenth-century letter from a box of miscellaneous papers belonging to the Strozzi family and now deposited in the State Archive of Ferrara, the letter's writer is at pains to elaborate how life had been transformed into one of bondage, and broken and uncertain extension. Cast into a state of 'imprisonment', the correspondent is 'tied' to the recipient of the letter 'with indissoluble chains'. Although we do not know the identity of the letter's writer or recipient, its historical context (it was probably composed during the time of the family's exile), its genderless voice, and its imagery and performance of incarceration provoke a number of significant questions of central interest to this Special Issue of Parergon. What were the interconnections and distinctions between the physical and metaphysical states of exile and imprisonment in medieval and early modern Europe? How did medieval and early modern men and women inhabit, perform, and conceive of confinement and separation? In what ways did literary and figurative concepts of exile and imprisonment construct precise places or consciously manufactured sites of the mind, rather than represent them? At an individual level, how did the conditions of banishment and incarceration intersect with gender and the emotions? How were the narratives of exile and imprisonment appropriated to give meaning to self-presentation and to the construction of identity? In what ways does foregrounding the voices of medieval and early modern women enable us to ponder the myriad ways -physical, material, and psychological, for instance--in which they were subsumed into the predominantly male punitive phenomena of judicial banishment and incarceration?

This Special Issue aims to examine the states of exile and imprisonment as correlative and discrete modalities of control and punishment in medieval and early modern Europe. It considers the concepts, experiences, and ideologies of these two states, presenting narratives of expulsion and incarceration that allow us to think about the comparisons and connections between exiles and prisoners across gender, place, and time. These articles emerged from a symposium sponsored by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash University in April 2013. Scholars from history and literary studies examined the multivalent nature of medieval and early modern exilic and carceral experiences in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England and Italy: as political, cultural, and affective categories, for instance, and as encompassing place and space, and bodily and interior worlds. Analysing the myriad ways in which the somatic, intellectual, and emotional experiences of these states were negotiated, appropriated, and performed by medieval and early modern individuals, the papers highlighted the commonalities and differences in the experiences of exile and imprisonment. The articles collected here explicitly foreground the states of exile and imprisonment as complex and paradoxical sites of physical and spiritual or metaphysical displacement and enclosure. Collectively, they present the insights and approaches of scholars concerned to explore how these states were experienced, represented, and imagined by the men and women who endured them, while also recognizing that the consequences of these punishments reverberated beyond the bodies of those incarcerated or banished. …

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