By Susanne Scholz (auth.)
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Additional resources for Body Narratives: Writing the Nation and Fashioning the Subject in Early Modern England
Fluids and processes are being kept apart, and the orderly manner in which digestion happens seems symptomatic of an effort to represent even involuntary bodily processes as ruled by temperance. Apparently, the ideal result of a disciplinary discourse which reconstructs the self and his or her body in accordance with social and political changes is a fortified structure, a castle or, as the Port Esquiline-image suggests, a city. Not only, as Foucault has argued, is ‘individual virtue … structured like a city’,34 suggesting selfcontrol and an internal hierarchy of functions, but the subject’s body and the body politic converge in the notion of regimen, which renders individual self-government as a precondition of public action and social responsibility.
5/6) Contrary to Erasmus’ well-known instructions on the medical necessity of breaking wind, hygienic considerations are here subjected to notions of propriety. Similar to other unmentionable but unavoidable evacuations, like vomiting, excretion in general is cast as ‘of nature’ and consequently to be done in private: ‘Go asyde whan thou must vomyte, for it is no rebuke to vomyte, but to vomyte of superfluitie is shameful’ (E: A8v). The action done in private, it seems, is non-existent in the public domain; not only the actual substances, but also the body parts associated with them, are being split off and cast as not really belonging to the subject’s body.
It marks a climactic moment in the quest, in which its fulfilment depends on a reversal of the virtue that is sought for: by completely relinquishing temperance, Guyon establishes a foundation for temperance once and for all, at least as regards the sexual pleasures. Binding Acrasia, restricting the wealth of possible pleasures to their social use in generation, emerges as one of the central founding moments of identity as envisaged by Spenser, a moment which, by installing ‘unrestrained’ sexual enjoyment as always already lost, also seems tinged by a nostalgic longing for non-identity that must be overcome at all costs.