“The Corporeal Orientation: A Medieval and Early Modern Framework for Understanding Deviance Through the Object(s) of Love.” In The Routledge Companion to Emotions in Europe, 1100-1700, edited by Susan Broomhall and Andrew Lynch. Abingdon: Routledge, Under Contract.


Emotion is a central element of both the experience of community as well as the very idea of what constitutes community. The nature given to “deviance” is by necessity shaped through the context of this community. This chapter examines one central ideology of love in the medieval and early modern periods that constructed and explained social deviance as a misdirection of human love. Theologians and academics described Christian community as both an expression and also a result of love properly oriented towards God. They depicted an excessive and wrongly directed love for the created world, what I call the corporeal orientation, as the exact opposite of this divine love. In the works of the pre-modern intellectuals who believed in this ideology of love, an orientation towards the created rather than the creator is a trait shared by many categories of threatening difference. Those renowned for and in large part defined by their carnal love, among others, included: Jews, Muslims, historical pagans, Christian heretics, and “sodomites.” The supposed deviance of all these groups issued from their assumed corporeal orientation. Their misdirected love rendered them incapable of accurate hermeneutics and entrapped them in a hell of meaningless discourse created by their misreading.

The analysis of the corporeal orientation in this chapter unites some major theoretical approaches in the history of emotions to theoretical frameworks drawn from queer and gender theory. It explores the essential ideology of the corporeal orientation as found in the work of Augustine of Hippo, and interrogates how these ideas functioned in the twelfth-century account of human cognition and the experience of the afterlife offered by Hugh of St. Victor. Following Hugh, it examines how Chaucer’s Pardoner, in the fourteenth century, exemplified the idea of a corporeal love as described by Augustine and Hugh. In its final example the chapter considers Milton’s presentation of love in Paradise Lost.