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Unnatural History: Gender and Genealogy in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica

Unnatural History: Gender and Genealogy in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica Chapter 3 : Gender and Genealogy in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica Massachusetts Institute of Technology Right in the middle of his argument in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," Michel Foucault makes the astonishing proposition that language has the power to alter the fundamental conditions of Nature. Inasmuch as cultural discourses--and moral injunctions in particular--are geared toward regulating the performance of bodily acts, the physical strains involved in practicing or repressing certain behaviors produce physiological changes within individual bodies. These anatomical mutations are then passed down to subsequent generations as inherited traits until an entire lineage or even a whole race has taken on the same set of induced characteristics. In Foucault's original conception of genealogical descent, therefore, ideas are not just transmitted culturally and institutionally, they actually imbed themselves within bloodlines. "Finally," he writes, "descent attaches itself to the body. It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate body of those whose ancestors committed errors. Fathers have only to mistake effects for causes, believe in the reality of an `afterlife,' or maintain the value of eternal truths, and the bodies of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Essays in Medieval Studies West Virginia University Press

Unnatural History: Gender and Genealogy in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica

Essays in Medieval Studies , Volume 19 (1)

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 Illinois Medieval Association.
ISSN
1538-4608
Publisher site
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Abstract

Chapter 3 : Gender and Genealogy in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica Massachusetts Institute of Technology Right in the middle of his argument in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," Michel Foucault makes the astonishing proposition that language has the power to alter the fundamental conditions of Nature. Inasmuch as cultural discourses--and moral injunctions in particular--are geared toward regulating the performance of bodily acts, the physical strains involved in practicing or repressing certain behaviors produce physiological changes within individual bodies. These anatomical mutations are then passed down to subsequent generations as inherited traits until an entire lineage or even a whole race has taken on the same set of induced characteristics. In Foucault's original conception of genealogical descent, therefore, ideas are not just transmitted culturally and institutionally, they actually imbed themselves within bloodlines. "Finally," he writes, "descent attaches itself to the body. It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate body of those whose ancestors committed errors. Fathers have only to mistake effects for causes, believe in the reality of an `afterlife,' or maintain the value of eternal truths, and the bodies of

Journal

Essays in Medieval StudiesWest Virginia University Press

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