Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture

Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture

Edited by Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa
Jacqueline Murray
Diane Watt
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 310
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt13wwzh3
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  • Book Info
    Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture
    Book Description:

    Current preoccupations with the body have led to a growing interest in the intersections between religion, literature and the history of medicine, and, more specifically, how they converge within a given culture. This collection of essays explores the ways in which aspects of medieval culture were predicated upon an interaction between medical and religious discourses, particularly those inflected by contemporary gendered ideologies. The essays interrogate this convergence broadly in a number of different ways: textually, conceptually, historically, socially and culturally. They argue for an inextricable relationship between the physical and spiritual in accounts of health, illness and disability, and demonstrate how medical, religious and gender discourses were integrated in medieval culture. Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa is Professor of English in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Shizuoka University. Contributors: Louise M. Bishop, Elma Brenner, Joy Hawkins, Roberta Magnani, Takami Matsuda, Liz Herbert McAvoy, Irina Metzler, Denis Renevey, Patricia Skinner, Juliette Vuille, Diane Watt, Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-513-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)
    Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa

    Preoccupations with the body in the twenty-first century have led to a growing interest in the intersections between literature, religion and the history of medicine, and, more specifically, how they converge within a given culture. In her plenary lecture delivered at the 2012 conference at Swansea University entitled ‘Cure and Care: Diseases, Disabilities and Therapies’,¹ Professor Monica Green, a leading historian of medieval medicine, not only emphasised the importance of a continued historical perspective but also called for active dialogue and concerted multi-disciplinary approaches in order to develop a deeply nuanced understanding of the social and cultural factors of disease,...

  7. PART I: Mary the Physician

    • 1 MARY THE PHYSICIAN: WOMEN, RELIGION AND MEDICINE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
      (pp. 27-44)
      Diane Watt

      The idea of Christ the Physician was widespread in the Middle Ages because cure of the soul was seen as an essential aspect of medical care. Yet for women in particular, the Virgin Mary seems to have had associations with medicine that went beyond her more generally recognised associations with intercessory healing and with childbirth. One of the defining and distinctive qualities of women’s visions in the post-Conquest period is the increasing importance of the role played by the Virgin Mary, and some of these visions illustrate vividly Mary’s medical role. At the same time, the Virgin Mary was central...

    • 2 CHAUCER’S PHYSICIANS: RAISING QUESTIONS OF AUTHORITY
      (pp. 45-64)
      Roberta Magnani

      As Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa indicates in the introduction, this volume is situated in the dialectic space created by the intersection of a number of coterminous discourses: medicine, religion and gender. The concepts ofChristus medicusand Mary the Physician testify to the interconnectedness of spirituality and medical practice, while posing questions about authority and power hierarchies that are overtly gendered, as the Virgin assumes an equal healing or salvific potency in relation to the Trinity. In the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the interconnection of these three coextensive discourses and the ensuing preoccupation with authority and truth become apparent in the...

  8. PART II: Female Mysticism and Metaphors of Illness

    • 3 HEAVENLY VISION AND PSYCHOSOMATIC HEALING: MEDICAL DISCOURSE IN MECHTILD OF HACKEBORN’S THE BOOKE OF GOSTLYE GRACE
      (pp. 67-84)
      Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa

      The Booke of Gostlye Graceis the Middle English translation ofLiber specialis gratiae, the revelations of Mechtild of Hackeborn, a German mystic and chantress of the Benedictine/Cistercian convent of Helfta at the end of the thirteenth century.¹ TheLiberis thought to have been compiled by Gertrude the Great and Helfta nuns during the last decade of the thirteenth century, but it was soon shortened and abridged by an anonymous redactor.² TheLiberwas widely circulated in various versions throughout Europe, and then translated into a variety of vernaculars.The Bookeis the only extant text from Helfta to...

    • 4 BATHING IN BLOOD: THE MEDICINAL CURES OF ANCHORITIC DEVOTION
      (pp. 85-102)
      Liz Herbert McAvoy

      In the Short Text account of her revelations, Julian of Norwich admits to having struggled with the concept of human sin, deeply troubled over an ontology of fallenness that prevents her from uniting with God: ‘If sin hadde nought bene’, she states, ‘we shulde alle hafe bene clene and like to oure lorde as he made us.’¹ Elsewhere, she records the ‘softe drede’ that the fear of sin elicits in her and in its ability to wound and separate a human from the goodness of God. Using the visceral vocabulary of the bodily wounding she has witnessed in her earlier...

    • 5 ‘MAYBE I’M CRAZY?’ DIAGNOSIS AND CONTEXTUALISATION OF MEDIEVAL FEMALE MYSTICS
      (pp. 103-120)
      Juliette Vuille

      Although Alison Torn, the author of this statement, ultimately qualifies and contextualises her impressions, such remarks are symptomatic of many contemporary readers’ unprompted reactions when studying late medieval mystical writings such asThe Book of Margery Kempe, which Torn mentions here. In an age influenced by psychiatry and Freudian psychoanalysis, and when any writing, especially an autobiographical text, is automatically construed as cathartic and as revealing the author’s mental pathology, there is indeed a strong compulsion to interpret and diagnose late medieval mystical accounts in order to understand them in terms and categories familiar to us. In the past twenty...

  9. PART III: Fifteenth-Century Poetry and Theological Prose

    • 6 PURGATORY AND SPIRITUAL HEALING IN JOHN AUDELAY’S POEMS
      (pp. 123-138)
      Takami Matsuda

      All the extant writings of John Audelay are preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 302, compiled c. 1426–31, which, according to Susanna Fein, ‘consists of four genre-based mini-anthologies, each with its own internal arrangement in planned sequence’.¹ The four sections are, respectively: a series of didactic and meditative poems entitled the ‘Counsel of Conscience’, a series of salutations, a sequence of religious carols, and a small section consisting of devotional prose and verse at the end of the codex.² It has been pointed out that Audelay’s poems abound in references to illness and its cure, and do so...

    • 7 REGINALD PECOCK’S READING HEART AND THE HEALTH OF BODY AND SOUL
      (pp. 139-158)
      Louise M. Bishop

      During the tumultuous fifteenth century in England, the vernacular English writings of the bishop of Chichester, Reginald Pecock (c. 1395–c. 1461), unnerved some readers, eventually to a lethal degree for the prelate.¹ In a 1457 letter that precipitated legal action, the Viscount Beaumont (1409–60) – one of the strongest supporters of the Lancastrian cause, remaining unusually loyal during the War of the Roses – expressed his concerns to his monarch, King Henry VI (1421–71). Beaumont’s worry centres on Pecock because the bishop, ‘thurgh presumpcioun and curiosite demed by hym in his owne wytte’,² has threatened the realm’s...

  10. PART IV: Disfigurement and Disability

    • 8 DISABLED CHILDREN: BIRTH DEFECTS, CAUSALITY AND GUILT
      (pp. 161-180)
      Irina Metzler

      Medieval causalities of birth defects interconnect medical and literary texts, which in turn reflect religious attitudes. Arguably religious or philosophical notions influenced, and in many cases predated, the medical discourse,¹ all of which notions fed into literary texts – as many of the essays included in this volume similarly attest. The modern separation of religion from science, the spiritual from the secular, would have been nonsensical to the medieval mind.

      How, then, did medieval normative texts – texts such as theological, philosophical or medical tracts, which reflect and reinforce commonly-held beliefs and cultural norms – explain the existence of congenital...

    • 9 MARKING THE FACE, CURING THE SOUL? READING THE DISFIGUREMENT OF WOMEN IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES
      (pp. 181-202)
      Patricia Skinner

      The facial disfigurement of women, whether through deliberate mutilation, accidental injury or the ravages of disease, was and still is a subject that evokes strong reactions, both positive (sympathy for the victim, attempts at rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of the damaged features, psychological counselling) and negative (shock or repulsion at the appearance of the victim, the passing of judgement or calculation of fault that led to the disfigurement, her rejection from the community).¹ Whilst men, too, might suffer traumatic facial damage, the gendered assumption that a woman valued and was valued for her beauty (regardless of the number of onlookers permitted...

    • 10 DID DRUNKENNESS DIM THE SIGHT? MEDIEVAL UNDERSTANDINGS AND RESPONSES TO BLINDNESS IN MEDICAL AND RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE
      (pp. 203-220)
      Joy Hawkins

      The thirteenth-century encyclopaedist, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, whose work was later translated into the vernacular by John Trevisa, included excessive alcohol consumption in his list of the possible causes of blindness; individuals who constantly deluged their body with unhealthy liquids would inevitably damage their eyesight. Bartholomaeus’ statement underscores the medieval theological and medical belief that most sufferers were responsible, at least in part, for their misfortunes. Classical Greek authorities had stressed that it was essential to keep the four humours – blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile – in balance by carefully following a regulated lifestyle appropriate to one’s age, gender and...

    • 11 BETWEEN PALLIATIVE CARE AND CURING THE SOUL: MEDICAL AND RELIGIOUS RESPONSES TO LEPROSY IN FRANCE AND ENGLAND, C. 1100–C. 1500
      (pp. 221-236)
      Elma Brenner

      Although leprosy affected only a small minority of people in the Middle Ages, its presence is very much felt in the sermons, literature and material culture of the period. In the past twenty-five years, historians have paid increasing attention to the social and religious dimensions of responses to leprosy, and have underlined the extent to which Christian society took responsibility for the needs of lepers, albeit placing them at a physical distance inleprosaria.¹ Indeed, the leprous were a major focus of charity, particularly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.² It was widely recognised by contemporaries that leprosy could not...

  11. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 237-248)
    Denis Renevey

    Medical information and knowledge, however complex they may be, pervade our lives through the large number of media that are available to us nowadays. A simple look atThe Guardianof 22 March 2014 is suggestive of the ways in which medical lore makes the headlines. The first front-page article conveys information about a debate triggered by a response to a study that questions the validity of prescribing a specific drug as a preventative for people who have a 20% risk of heart attack or stroke. The article continues in the ‘Health’ section of the broadsheet, and more information in...

  12. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 249-280)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 281-293)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-295)