Medieval death poetry revels in the appetites that proliferate around corpses. Death may be an end for a subject, but the subject is also an object for the appetites of others, which will themselves eventually be food objects for others. Few medieval works show this so clearly as the Disputation Between the Body and the Worms, a debate poem in which a body finds itself at odds with its own edibility and the competing interests of its own biome. A crowd of worms finally convinces the body to give up her self-possession, and to realize that nothing, not humanity, not wealth, not beauty, will let vulnerability be ‘outsourced,’ for all appetites, bodies, and desires, human and otherwise, will be humbled by the appetites and desires of others.
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My title comes from Henry Nilson's song ‘Food, Food, Food,’ from the soundtrack to Popeye. Gratitude to the following for conversations, corrections, bibliographic suggestions, and proddings, and for emailing articles to a temporarily stranded scholar: Jeffrey J. Cohen, Patricia Clare Ingham, Eileen A. Joy, Ashby Kinch, Virginia Langum, Steve Mentz, Allan Mitchell, Nicola Masciandaro, E. R. Truitt, and Will Youngman.
All translations are the author's, unless otherwise indicated.
Bogost (2012, 80): ‘If anticorrelationism amounts to a rejection of only one correlation and an embrace of multiple correlations, then centrism is inevitable – whether it be anthropocentrism, petrocentrism, photocentrism, skylocentrism, or any other.’
For an allied project, see Rudd, (2007, 21–27) on the lyric ‘erþe toc of erþe’ (DIMEV #6292).
However, see also Westerhof (2008, 15–17, 21–22, 28–29).
See Joy (2012, 157). Apropos the frustrated efforts of a J.G. Ballard character to erase himself, Joy remarks that ‘even when you are dead, you are still here.’
For the phrase's vast popularity, see Cerquiglini-Toulet (1999, 349, n3).
See, for example, Wolfe (2012).
Remember you must die/live/eat/be eaten.
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Steel, K. Abyss: Everything is food. Postmedieval 4, 93–104 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/pmed.2012.45