Abstract

This article reads the Middle English Pricke of Conscience in relation to disability studies, a robust field that studies the body and its impairments, the stigmatization of the impaired, the history of normality and ableism, and the social and medical treatment of infirmity. For Pricke, in particular, disability studies provides a critical way of understanding the construction of impairment and of “normalcy” and helps us to read the poem's rhetorics of fear and persuasion. Pricke works by deconstructing the pride that sinners inherently take in their “abilities,” as it were, to use the body for pleasure and sin. Pricke inverts one's intuitive sense of “ability” by proving how the abled, those who glory in natural beauty and freedom of movement, will, in the ignorance of pride, employ that freedom only to impair themselves morally by immersing themselves in disabling sin, which deforms both body and soul.

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