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.
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.