Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Mind Your Manners

Over at First Things, Peter Leithart has an amusing review article of German historian Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process. Leithart states,

Through a survey of etiquette books and other documents dealing with topics like table manners, blowing one’s nose, spitting, the deportment of the body, facial expressions, and the control of bodily functions, Elias argues that Westerners went through a gradual and uneven affective transformation during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the end of the process, behaviors considered normal in the Middle Ages had been ruled “barbarous.” This civilized separation from barbarity signaled major changes in feelings of delicacy, shame, refinement, and repugnance.

Perhaps this explains why Martin Luther was not so concerned with suppressing certain bodily functions and John Owen was rather keen on his Spanish leather boots!

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