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Analysis Of The Histroy And Topography Of Ireland By Gerald Of Wales

1323 words - 6 pages

For Gerald of Wales, religion was one of the most essential aspects of being a civilized human being. Therefore, when he wrote, The History and Topography of Ireland, he portrayed its inhabitants as subhuman and barbaric during his apparent travels to Ireland. As a colonizer, Gerald picked a far away place in which many had not been to, in order to establish them as the “other”. Unfortunately, for Gerald, he may have ridiculed the Irish for their lifestyle conveyed in his writing, but his exploitation of them most likely was done because he could in fact relate to them. In the book, The Postcolonial Middle Ages, Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s analysis in his chapter, “Hybrids, Monsters, Borderlands: The Bodies of Gerald of Wales”, closely focuses on Gerald’s cultural hybridity, which mirrors his accounts of the Irish. Although he deemed the Irish as barbaric, they were also hybrids, thus he also shared a feeling of displacement with them. Nonetheless, he still held himself to a higher degree because they did not properly celebrate Christianity, ultimately leading them to make other unpleasant decisions.
It is not obvious in The History and Topography of Ireland that Gerald is a hybrid, but when reading Cohen alongside the book, it seems that the negative depiction of the Irish was intentional for personal reasons. In his chapter, Cohen provides, “Gerald of Wales suggest[ion] that medieval hybridity is the admixture of categories, traumas, and temporalities that reconfigure what it means to be human. Medieval hybridity is inherently monstrous” (89). In his proposal, Gerald is demonstrating the rejection of any type of crossbreeding between cultures, races, and species. Although he feels that hybridity constitutes the lack of humanity, his biological makeup was constructed of Norman and Welsh cultures. For that reason, his negative discussions of the “mongrels” and “monsters” are not only hypocritical, but they must reflect the way that he felt about his own conception. Without realizing it, Gerald acts as some what of a native informant; not only turning against the people that he can relate to most, but also attempting to turn others against them with his disapproving narrative. It can be said that he felt so repulsed by himself that he makes an effort to spread the feeling towards the idea of hybridity. In doing so, he exaggerates the acts of two different kinds of people, animals, or people and animals coming together in attempt to demonstrate that it changes the definition of being human. I believe that while he is actually living proof that hybrids can function as civilized peoples, he rejects the idea that any already “barbaric” creature can change. Gerald cannot get away from his own filthy hybridity, so unfortunately he uses Ireland’s reputation to discard any positive idea that could be had about it.
It can also be seen throughout The History and Topography of Ireland that Gerald has a misogynistic side to him. In his writing, all the women...

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