From the time of its composition through the early 1460s, Alain Chartier's Belle Dame sans Mercy (1424) elicited a series of responses, including two continuations by Achille Caulier. This pair of closely related texts invites an exploration of the theoretical stakes of a confrontation between judicial and penal procedures and the medicalized body. Across Caulier's successive interventions in the querelle, medical language at first complements then ultimately supplants juridical discourse. Unlike the “punitive” metaphors identified by Susan Sontag, medicalized language empowers the late medieval sufferer: thanks to the diverse metaphorical valences of illness and therapy current in the fifteenth-century West, medicalization offers an alternate and potentially nonmoralistic or plurimoralistic mode of continuation. The late medieval debate over the Belle Dame thus affords contemporary critics a new perspective on what it is to give a disease a meaning.

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