Another issue is to avoid imposing our modern conceptual grid on medieval society. We intuitively accept the idea of a difference between East and West rather than the idea of a difference between medieval European and modern European societies. The extension of the perspective into the global can help medievalists to become a little more relativist in this respect. When we include eastern medieval systems in the comparative analysis, we show that the medieval European system shares some common features with the medieval eastern systems (although we also observe numerous dissimilarities). The idea then becomes somewhat more straightforward that medieval society differed in its systemic characteristics from our modern society. In this regard, Philippe Descola’s study, Beyond nature and culture (Par-delà nature et culture, Paris, 2005), turns out to be very instructive.
Turning to the object under study, pre-modern body metaphors that are at the core of our project can be represented by some scholars as a global object, at least because these kinds of metaphors seem to be common to many societies. This observation poses several problems in turn. While we note the wide geographical spread of metaphors, we are nevertheless faced with the question of the nature of this spread. We do not know whether these metaphors were initially present in these societies or whether they were assimilated from one (several) centre(s).
Anyway, through comparative analysis, we can identify common features in the use of corporeal metaphors in pre-modern societies. The key question in this respect is how to proceed to a comparison. The approach is to understand the role of the body metaphors within the systems of each society and only then proceed to a comparison between societies; the main methodological issue is to avoid extracting individual elements out of the context where they draw their meaning. Furthermore, the problem of comparison brings us back to the question of the boundaries of the universal and the non-universal in different cultures.
Final remark. The study of the semantics of the medieval body utilising digital humanities methods became possible recently. The work of numerous national teams to build large diachronic corpora now enables each researcher to proceed to a study of individual concepts at a more general level than previously, in particular to work on larger geographical and temporal scales. In this respect, historical science dealing with global objects becomes, to some extent, akin to natural sciences, where one of the main characteristics is the possibility of varying levels of analysis and experimentation with the amount of data analyzed.