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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 1607: Medical Diagnoses and Cures

Thursday 16 July 2009, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Iona McCleery, Institute for Medieval Studies / School of History, University of Leeds
Paper 1607-aThe Subject Defaced: Illness Narrative in Late Medieval England
(Language: English)
Julie Orlemanski, Department of English, Harvard University
Index terms: Daily Life, Language and Literature - Middle English, Medicine, Science
Paper 1607-bHealing Bodies, Saving Souls: Hildegard of Bingen's Reading of the Creation Story and her Holistic Medicine
(Language: English)
Jayna Brett, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto
Index terms: Medicine, Science, Theology

Paper -a:
Taking leprosy as paradigmatic of medieval pathology, I read a number of 'diagnostic narratives' from 15th-century England to consider what sort of subject and cosmos these narratives produce. To recognize a leper was to read in her face not an individual physiognomy, but the signs of the disease: De individuis non est scientia. At the same, however, leprosy was the culmination of a unique process of infection and imbalance, of influence and causation. This paper will examine the competing exigencies of scientific categorization and individual biography as they generated the subject of disease during the rise of vernacular medicine.

Paper -b:
This paper discusses Hildegard of Bingen's interpretation and retelling of aspects of Genesis in her medico-scientific work Causes and Cures. I will show that her version of the story provides the basis for health and healing in the earthly and divine realms. Hildegard describes illness as a physical extension of sin. Prior to the fall, the human body was not susceptible to disease, but when the fruit was consumed by Adam and Eve, the composition of the body was forever changed - the body of the sinner was marked or tainted to reflect the impure soul. I will argue that Hildegard suggests that eternal salvation depends on curing physical ailments in the present, on earth. Essentially, she recommends an attempt at undoing what God has done.