73°Partly Cloudy

‘Getting Medieval’: Torture and Truth in the Middle Ages

by Prince Of Petworth February 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm 12 Comments

courtesy DCPL

From an email:

“‘Getting Medieval’: Torture and Truth in the Middle Ages​

Thursday, February 4th at 7pm at the Shaw Library [1630 7th Street, NW]


Torture—that most notorious aspect of medieval culture and society—has evolved into a dominant mythology, suggesting that the Middle Ages was a period during which sadistic torment was inflicted on citizens with impunity and without provocation: popular museums displaying such gruesome implements as the rack, the strappado, the gridiron, the wheel, and the Iron Maiden can be found in many modern European cities. These lurid images of medieval torture have re-emerged within recent discussions on American foreign policy and the introduction of torture legislation as a weapon in the “War on Terror”, and raised questions about its history and reality, particularly given its proliferation in some literary genres and its relative absence in others.

Larissa Tracy challenges preconceived ideas about the prevalence of torture and judicial brutality in medieval society by arguing that their portrayal in literature is not mimetic. Instead, she argues that the depictions of torture and brutality represent satire, critique and dissent; they have didactic and political functions in opposing the status quo.

Refreshments will be served.”

  • petworther

    I’d like to hear more about those refreshments.

    • TheLibrarian

      Most likely cookies, crackers, and water or juice or tea.

  • DT

    You know Iron Maidens didn’t exist in medieval times, right? and they were not used as a means of torture?

    • Farragut

      Yes, and? Iron Maidens are mentioned as part of the mythology, and the talk will probably go into the facts…

      • JT

        Here’s an illuminating article on the Iron Maiden:


        “In 1793, Johann Philipp Siebenkees reported an iron maiden being used to execute a coin forger on August 14, 1515. Ironically, his story was a hoax. Still, he provides for us in his account one of the first mentions of this instrument. Several earlier mentions in 1783 and 1788 suggest that this instrument primarily served as a tourist or museum attraction – perhaps as an indication of how cruel people were in the past.”

    • petworther

      Did you read the description? That appears to be the point of the talk.

  • Charles

    The refreshments will be tea and cake, or death.

    • textdoc


    • jenster8dc

      +10,000 Internets to Charles!

  • bruno

    Torture is also contemporary; the US government engaged in waterboarding, etc. in the 21st century, and other abuses.

    • d

      Another person who didn’t bother to read the description.

  • wpk_dc

    This sounds like a very interesting talk — I’ll be there.


Subscribe to our mailing list