Archive for March, 2012

Presentation by Amanda C. Barton 2.6.12

To introduce our discussion of The King’s Two Bodies, I turn to Marie Axton’s comment on the peculiar metaphor of the two-bodied monarch:

Prior to England’s break with Rome and immediately after, English common lawyers “were formulating an idea of the state as a perpetual corporation, yet they were unable or unwilling to separate state and monarch. Their concept of the king’s two bodies was an attempt to deal with a paradox: men died and the land endured; kings died, the crown survived; individual subjects died but subjects always remained to be governed. Perhaps the lawyers were unwilling to envisage England itself as a perpetual corporation because the law had always vested land in a person” (12).

Hence, in Tudor common law we see an articulation of “pre-nation” abstractions of the corporate state.  It is important to note that this metaphor is separate from, but related to, the notion of the subjects as the members (ie, body parts such as hands, feet and stomach) of the state and the monarch as the head. The the metaphor of the two-bodied monarch is also distinct, looking even further back, from the metaphor of the king marrying the land.  However, there are some important themes of notions of corporality and the relationship of abstract state and physical land running through all of these that are important.

Detail from the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, depicting the monarch as the head of the state's corporate body.

History and Reception

Published in 1957, Kantorowicz’s study, which ranges across the Middle Ages and late Antiquity, was immediately well-received and has remained an important text. Reviewers compared Kantorowicz’s methodology to Frederic William Maitland’s Domesday Book and Beyond: Three Essays in the Early History of England (1897). Despite near universal acclaim, reviewers, even those who praised the text, took issue with aspects of the text: 1) its “too-much-ness,” the excess of material at the expense of cogency (Antony Black called it “a masterpiece of erudite confusion”; 2) not enough discussion of practical politics, how did this metaphysical legal theory affect day-to-day court cases?; 3) despite the nimiety, it was thin on discussion of the papacy.

Kantorowicz was born in Posen, Prussia (now Poznan, Poland) in 1895. He held a post at Frankfurt from 1930 to 1934, when he refused to take the oath to Adolf Hitler. In 1938, he left Germany for the US and accepted a position at Berkeley. He moved to Princeton in 1951 after leaving UC-Berkeley because he refused to take the loyalty oath required during McCarthy’s anti-communism investigations.

The Argument <<l’état c’est moi>>

The King’s Two Bodies explores the paradox of the two-bodied sovereign in Renaissance and medieval jurisprudence: the king has both a body natural and a body politic; the king is immortal, never underage, incapable of doing or thinking wrong, invisible, cannot judge but is “the Fountain of Justice,” is omnipresent in all his courts. Kantorowicz’s study attempts “to understand . . . certain axioms of a political theology, which mutatis mutandis was to remain valid until the twentieth century, began to be developed during the later Middle Ages”(xviii). “Political theology” is associated with Carl Schmitt’s description of authoritarian governments; Kantorowicz prefers this term to “political thought” used by his reviewers because “theology” encompasses metaphysical aspects of this legal philosophy and its relationship to medieval Christian theology.

Kantorowicz explores the christological nature of the discussion of these legal speculations, by beginning his study with a specific case in Tudor jurisprudence and working backwards through the Middle Ages. He notes that through this conception the king acquires a character angelicus, the body politic represents the “Immutable within Time” (8). This development seems most particularly indebted to the organic unity of the “sacred” and “secular” during the Middle Ages, that is, the line was not nearly as bright, and there were “cross-relations between Church and State” in nearly every century (193). For example, consider the imperial appearance of the sacerdotium. Perrhaps most useful, Kantorowicz analyzes the semiotic switch that takes place between the terms corpus verum and corpus mysticum (the terms for the Host and the Church) and how it influenced medieval notions of corporation.

Pertinent passages from Plowden’s Report

. . . by the Common Law no Act which the King does as King, shall be defeated by his Nonage. For the King has in him two Bodies, viz., a Body natural, and a Body politic. His Body natural (if it be considered in itself) is a Body mortal, subject to all Infirmities that come by Nature or Accident, to the Imbecility of Infancy or old Age, and to the like Defects that happen to the natural Bodies of other People. But his Body politic is a Body that cannot be seen or handled, consisting of Policy and Government, and constituted for the Direction of the People, and the Management of the public weal, and this Body is utterly void of Infancy, and old Age, and other natural Defects and Imbecilities, which the Body natural is subject to, and for this Cause, what the King does in his Body politic, cannot be invalidated or frustrated by any Disability in his natural Body. (Kantorowicz 7).

For when the Body politic of King of this Realm is conjoined to the Body natural, and one Body is made of them both, the Degree of the Body natural, and of the things possessed in that Capacity is thereby altered, and the Effects thereof are changed by its Union with the other Body, and don’t remain in their former Degree, but partake of the Effects of the Body politic. . . . And the Reason thereof is, because the Body politic wipes away every Imperfection of the other Body, with which it is consolidated, and makes it to be another Degree than it should be if it were along by itself. . . . And the Cause [in a parellel case] was not because the Capacity of the Body natural was drowned by the Dignity royal . . . , but the Reason was, because to the Body natural, in which he held the land, the Body politic was associated and conjoined, during which Association or Conjunction the Body natural partakes of the Nature and Effects of the Body politic. (11)

The King has two Capacities, for he has two Bodies, the one whereof is a Body natural, consisting of natural Members as every other Man has, and in this he is subject to Passions and Death as other Men are; the other is a Body politic, and the Members thereof are his Subjects, and he and his Subjects together compose the Corporation, as Southcote said, and his is incorporated with them, and they with him, and he is the Head, and they are the Members, and he has the sole Government of them; and this Body is not subject to Passions as the other is, nor to Death, for as to this Body the King never dies, and his natural Death is not called in our Law (as Harper said), the Death of the King, but the Demise of the King, not signifying by the Word (Demise) that the Body politic of the King is dead, bu that there is a Separation of the two Bodies, and that the Body politic is transferred and conveyed over from the Body natural now dead, or now removed from the Dignity royal, to another Body natural. So that it signifies a Removal of the Body politic of the King of this Realm from one Body natural to another. (13)

Selected bibliography

Axton, Marie. The Queen’s Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession.  London: Royal Historical Society, 1977.

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P, 1985.

Maitland, Frederic William. Domesday Book and Beyond: Three Essays in the Early History of England. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge U P, 1897.

Schmitt, Carl. Political theology: four chapters on the concept of sovereignty. Trans. George Schwab. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1985. 

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The Annolied is a hagiography of Saint Anno, a theocrat who lived from 1010 to 1074, who was immensely popular with his parishioners but not terribly popular with rival bishops or other political rivals. The text sets up his history with two backgrounds, first sacred and then secular history, which are integrated in the person of Saint Anno. After discussing his ascent to sainthood, the text portrays a blasphemer Volprecht being punished by having his eyes destroyed for denying Anno’s saintliness, and then restored after giving confession. The text ends with a sentence on remembering the signs God has given us.

My reading of this poem’s aesthetic of “two worlds which combine to make a third,” that is, human beings, is symbolized by the combination of the sense of sight and of sound in the written world, which itself combines with the twofold (secular and sacred) history of the human race, which explains the aesthetic purpose of Volprecht’s mode of punishment. For the meeting I brought in a paper I am revising for publication, which essentially presents this thesis statement. Thomas Rowland helpfully pointed out some imprecisions in my language, initially objecting to the notion that the Annolied, in any simplistic sense, privileges one part of the sensorium over the other. He’s quite right – both the aural and visual knowledge play key roles in this text, although the roles do, I think, play out a bit differently with different emphasis. Thomas also pointed out the deeply political nature of this text, something covered in scholarship such as Benjamin Arnold’s essay in the bibliography, but Thomas drew out some very useful passages where the poem seems to be valorizing some sense of Germanic pride, or at least pride of Cologne. Thomas also brought up the notion of “spots,” whether present or absent, being a sign of holiness – such as the Pearl maiden being without spot, and some points of comparison between the Annolied and the 7 fold history of the world found in Bede.

Beth asked why the secular details were so expanded, which may have many reasons, but I think at least two are appropriate: first, the poem seems, as Thomas pointed out, to be very politically motivated, and secondly that the disparity of sacred versus secular is something combined by the guiding aesthetic of the poem – secular history is not simplistically separate from sacred history. Beth also pointed out an apt parallel between Volprecht’s punishment and Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus.

Amanda Barton brought up Mircea Eliade (sp?), a theologian I confess no conversance with, but who apparently has worked with the notion of believing without seeing. She also mentioned the oral nature of confession in Catholicism, which seems connected to the sensibilities of the poem in interesting ways.

Below is the handout I gave for the poem. Comments and questions are welcome.

Annolied (ca. 1077-81): “Song of Anno”, a.k.a, Eyeball Explosions

Early Middle High German Hagiography of “Saint Anno” (ca. 1010-1074):

  1. Sacred History: Creation, Fall of Lucifer and Adam, Christ’s Victory, Disciples Evangelize, Cologne Christianized, Anno among the saintly bishops. (st. 1-7)
  1. Secular History: Origin of Cities, Ninus founds Nineveh, Four Beasts of Daniel Prophesies Translation of Empire: Babylon, Chaldea, Greece (Alexander), Rome. Caeser – Backtrack to Troy – Caesar, Augustus, birth of Christ, Rome Christianized by Peter, Cologne Christianized by Romans, Anno is 33rd bishop to preside in Cologne since then. (st. 8-33)
  2. History of Anno: Anno welcomed to Cologne, Ecclesiastical Rockstar, Wholly Holy, makes 5 monasteries, including Siegburg (where he is now buried), Persecution by secular lords and compared to David, Holds a Grudge, Gets Sick, starts going to heaven but he has a stain on his heart, so he forgives Cologne and is admitted into heaven. Performs many miracles. Volprecht, servant of a nobleman named Arnold, goes in league with the Devil and starts to blaspheme against God and all of the saints, including Anno. When he begins to insult Saint Anno one of his eyes melts. He persists in defaming Anno until he has a stroke, falls to the ground, and his other eye goes shooting out. He is persuaded to confess, and then his eyes grow back and he is reconciled to Arnold and to God. Final comparison between Anno and Moses, then closes with comments about the goodness of God. (st. 34-49)

Guiding Aesthetics:

  1. 3 Worlds, the material and the spiritual which make up the third, the human
  2. Concern to show Anno as a positive figure (hagiography)
  3. Concern to have ecclesiastical literature stand up to heroic literature (chronicle)

Important Background:

  1. Patristics – i.e., Augustine
  2. Numerology
  3. Orality and Literacy

My Take:

I think the best way to read this poem is as establishing a sacred aesthetic of the sensorium, to use Ong’s terminology. Hearing and seeing are the two stressed senses, and while seeing is important, it is hearing which rules the day – hearing which represents best the spiritual world. With the deep code of numerical structure, it is the ear, not the eye, which for most in the audience will matter, and the punishment of the servant suggests that visual knowledge must be subordinated to auditory knowledge to attain spirituality for the lay person. But this is reversed for the ecclesiaste: Anno is not admitted into heaven until the visual stain on him is removed. And yet the stain is something only heard about through the song, thus reasserting the primacy in right-hearing over right-seeing in the pursuit to live the good life.

Relevant Primary Sources:

Augustine’s City of God (Latin)

Vita Annonis (Latin)

Kaiserchronik (Middle High German)

Book of Daniel (Probably Latin rather than Hebrew-Aramaic?)

Relevant Secondary Sources:

Arnold, Benjamin. “From Warfare on Earth to Eternal Paradise: Archbishop Anno II of Cologne, The History of the Western Empire in the Annolied, and the Salvation of Mankind.” Viator 23 (1992): 95-113.

Batts, Michael S. “Numerical Structure in Medieval Literature (with a Bibliography).” Ed. Stanley N Werbow.  Formal Aspects of Medieval German Poetry. University of Texas Press, 1969. 93-122.

—. “On the Form of the Annolied.” Monatshefte 52.4 (1960): 179-182.

Dunphy, R. Graeme. “Historical Writing in and after the Old High German Period.” Ed. Brian Murdoch. German Literature of the Early Middle Ages. Camden House, 2004. 201-226.

—. Dunphy, R. Graeme. Opitz’s Anno: The Middle High Gerrman Annolied in the 1639 edition of Martin Opitz. Glasgow, 2003.

Green, D.H. Medieval Listening and Reading: The primary reception of German literature 800-1300. Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Schultz, James A. Sovereignty and Salvation in the Vernacular, 1050-1150. Western Michigan University, 2000.

Thurlow, P. “Augustine’s City of God, Pagan History and the Unity of the Annolied.” Reading medieval studies: annual proceedings of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies in the University of Reading 6 (1980): 44-67.

Walshe, M. O’C. “Early Middle High German Literature.” Medieval German Literature. Harvard UP, 1962. 34-70.

Whitesell, Frederick R. “Martin Opitz’ Edition of the ‘Annolied’.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 43.1 (1994): 16-22.

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