Author(s): Valerie Allen
The study of the fart in medieval culture participates in the widespread and productive contemporary study of the body, its practices and its hermeneutics. As a consequence of the cultural materialist interest in the quotidian, criticism has moved away from an abstracted conception of selfhood toward an appreciation of how the concrete daily regimens of bodily habitus, generally taken for granted, shape the horizon of our cultural and individual consciousness. The fart, in its parodying of language and its logic of affinity, leads us ultimately to the problem of hermeneutics, of the art of interpretation itself. Although much of the medieval preoccupation with flatulence originates from the aesthetic of comic inversion, whereby fart "sing" or parody human language or are mistaken for departed souls, it also reflects a more serious interest in bodily health. A multifarious typology of the fart should permit a better understanding of the phenomenon's protean wealth of meaning.