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The Medieval Heart$
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Heather Webb

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780300153934

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300153934.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 16 October 2019

The Sovereign Heart

The Sovereign Heart

(p.10) Chapter One The Sovereign Heart
The Medieval Heart

Heather Webb

Yale University Press

This chapter looks at convergences between physiologies and political metaphors in terms of the two tensions that delineate a recurrent alternation between two sets of configurations of the human. For most of Western history, the brain, or the head, was the most common metaphor for the ruler of the body politic. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, however, the heart momentarily took over the role as sovereign in political metaphor and in physiology in a significant number of accounts. This required a deft negotiation of the problem of unity versus multipolarity. While the brain's importance had to be acknowledged, the heart was nonetheless singled out as the organ that unified and originated all life processes. Two main questions are addressed in this chapter: What is at stake in this alternate vision of the body and the body politic? What changes when the heart is sovereign, rather than the head?

Keywords:   convergences, physiologies, political metaphors, brain, body politic, unity, multipolarity, life processes

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