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What is Marginality?

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From a scientific perspective marginality is understood as deviance from the norm. For our purposes this is a good foundational definition, but ultimately it falls short of expressing the myriad of issues confronted in the context of exploring marginality in Medieval Europe. In an effort to create a more suitable definition it may be more efficacious for us to work backwards, from the particulars to the abstract. By beginning with the groups which we have studied as representative of marginality in medieval society and examining the characteristics they possess--either in common or individually--we may thus arrive at a working definition of what it meant to be marginal in the Middle Ages. The groups which informed our study include: Heretics, Jews, Homosexuals, Prostitutes, Lepers, and Witches. (Naturally an argument could be made for the expansion of this list). In general we discovered that the above listed groups displayed evidence of precarious positioning with regard to ... more
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