Call for Submissions for an Edited Volume

Title: ‘His brest tobrosten’: Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture
Editors: Kelly DeVries and Larissa Tracy

In The Knight’s Tale, Chaucer’s Knight describes the shafts of spears shivering to pieces
on thick shields, the ‘helmes they tohewen and toshrede;/ Out brest the blood with stierne
stremes rede;/ With myghty maces the bones they tobreste’ (lines 2609–11). Yet, for all
this bloodshed no one dies, and the only malice and hatred is between the two rivals who
hunt each other down and with ‘jelous strokes on hir helmes byte;/ Out rennet blood on
bothe hir sydes rede’ (lines 2634–5). Even in the final tally after Arcite’s fall, ‘Al were
they soore yhurt, and namely oon, that with a spere was thirled his brest boon’ (lines
2709–10); some have broken bones, some apply salves and medicines, and some drink
sage to save their limbs. The Knight’s description of Arcite’s injuries is far more graphic
than the scenes of battle. When Arcite falls he lies as if dead, ‘His brest tobrosten with his
sadel-bowe./ As blak he lay as any cole or crowe,/ So was the blood yronned in his face’
(lines 2691–3). The clotted blood, despite the efforts of leechcraft, decays and cannot be
drained through any medical techniques, and the poison cannot be expelled: ‘The pipes of
his longes gonne to swelle,/ And every lacerte in his brest adoun/ Is shent with venym
and corrupcioun’ (lines 2752–4). It is a gruesome and painful death, fraught with lurid
detail lacking in the earlier scenes of battle.

The spectacle of the wounded body figured prominently in the Middle Ages, from
images of Christ’s wounds on the cross, to the ripped and torn bodies of tortured saints
who miraculously heal through divine intervention, to graphic accounts of battlefield and
tournament wounds and literary episodes of fatal or not so fatal wounds. This volume
seeks to bring together essays devoted to the idea of either causing wounds, wounds
and/or wound repair from a wide range of sources and disciplines including arms and
armaments, military history, medical history, literature, art history, hagiography, and
archaeology across medieval and early modern Europe.

*Please submit abstracts of 250 words by May 20, 2012 to either Larissa Tracy
( or or Kelly DeVries

*Please include your affiliation and brief bio with your abstract.

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