Phenomenal Pain: Embodying the Passion in the Life of Elizabeth of Spalbeek

Sarah Macmillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Structured around a daily routine of Passion imitation, the Life of Elizabeth of Spalbeek presents self-mortification as a means of recognizing the fundamental significance of embodiment to understanding the world and one’s place in it. It encourages the reader to reflect on the relationship between embodiment, imitation and human experience. Employing a phenomenology of embodied existence, the function of Elizabeth’s exceptional pain rituals are here examined as processes of situating oneself in the world. It is argued that Elizabeth’s imitatio and its textual representation are a negotiation of the simultaneous formation and effacement of individual identity in late-medieval devotional culture. The essay addresses Elizabeth’s portrayal of numerous individuals, predominantly Christ, but also his torturers, the Virgin Mary and the disciple John, specifically examining her dual role as both tormentor and tormented in order to suggest that imitation is central to asceticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-119
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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