Title

Phlegmatic Landscapes: Perceptions of Wetlands, Acedia, and Complexion Theory in Selected Later Medieval Allegorical Pilgrim Narratives

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-4-2019

Publication Title

Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

Volume

13

Issue

2

First page number:

157

Last page number:

180

Abstract

Understanding medieval landscapes as sacred sites reveals underlying tensions in medieval thought between the placement of human beings outside of nature and a view that humans are in, and part of, the natural world. This article examines the relationship of landscape and human experience in late medieval allegorical dream visions of pilgrimage with particular attention to the descriptions of swamps or swamp-like environments and their effects. According to complexion theory, humoral makeup shaped natural entities, including human physiology and psychology. The phlegmatic person’s complexional coldness and moisture predisposed that person to the sin of acedia or spiritual despair, just as the stagnant swamp threatened to trap those who passed through it. The swamp and other wetland landscapes therefore appeared in these texts as an acknowledgment that the pilgrim/poet/narrator might suffer defeat through their own inability to move toward the good. This relationship was constitutive as well as metaphorical, as inhabiting a swamp induced phlegmatic characteristics.

Disciplines

History of Religion | Landscape Architecture | Medieval History | Nature and Society Relations | Sociology of Religion

Language

English

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