Collaborative Research in Pilgrimage Studies

Three undergraduate research assistants in Hispanic Studies, William Plews-Ogan (’15), Emma Kessel (’16), and Bobby Bohnke (’17), collaborated with Prof. George Greenia on an original article on the exhausting nature of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.  Their team effort will be published under the title of “The Bartered Body: Medieval Pilgrims and Spiritual Transaction” in the forthcoming anthology The Pilgrim Body: An Anatomy of Intentional Movement.  As they explain in their opening paragraph,

greeniaThe medieval Christian pilgrim was nothing without his body.  All the sacred debris that he ferried and fondled–all the gifts he carried forward, and relics and souvenirs he clutched on his return–were mere accessories. … The journey physically disciplined and dirtied the body, exposed the traveler to danger and death, and denied him normal comforts.  To sustain their worthiness, pilgrims scrupulously cleansed before entering the sacred precincts, and emblazoned themselves with badges and even tattoos for the return home.  Their bodies were tabernacles for their devotion, their best offering on arrival, and their principal relic on return.

Sections of their essay explores topics as diverse as The Body as Risk, The Diseased and Weary Body, The Legal Body, The Bartered Body and The Sacred Body.  Kessel presented portions of their shared findings during the 2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium sponsored by the William & Mary Program in Medieval & Renaissance Studies, and will continue her research during William & Mary summer study abroad in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.  She will both narrow her scope to specifically the medieval woman’s bodily experience, habitually underreported in pre-modern sources, and expand the team’s scope to consider the body of the mature modern pilgrim.

Graduating senior Plews-Ogan is a veteran pilgrim from two trips on the pilgrimage routes to Santiago and has completed a senior honors thesis in sociology on alternative forms of judicial sentencing–including being sent on pilgrimage.  Bohnke has studied abroad too, in William & Mary’s program in Cádiz, Spain, and already as a sophomore is enrolled in a senior seminar in Hispanic Studies at the College.  During the summer of 2014, Bohnke worked as a research fellow with Professor Francie Cate-Arries and the Cádiz Memory Project.

 

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