IMC 2018: Sessions

Session 1308: Mammaries and Memory: Breasts in Medieval Culture and Society

Wednesday 4 July 2018, 16.30-18.00

Organiser:Kim M. Phillips, Department of History, University of Auckland
Moderator/Chair:Katherine J. Lewis, Department of History, University of Huddersfield
Paper 1308-aThe Maternal Breast and Male Shame in Ælfric's Life of St Agatha
(Language: English)
Alice D. Jorgensen, School of English, Trinity College Dublin
Index terms: Gender Studies, Hagiography, Language and Literature - Old English, Religious Life
Paper 1308-b'Woman's Milk' as Medicine in Medieval Herbals and Handbooks
(Language: English)
Kim M. Phillips, Department of History, University of Auckland
Index terms: Gender Studies, Medicine, Religious Life, Sexuality
Abstract

Women’s breasts have always been freighted with meaning, yet detailed studies of their manifold medieval connotations are lacking. Jorgensen rereads Ælfric’s Life of St Agatha in light of Nussbaum’s remarks on male shame’s projection onto female bodies. Agatha’s breast reminds the powerful, violent man that he was once only a dependent baby. Kane turns to memories of reproduction in late medieval York. Court depositions illuminate feminine realms of practice and belief concerning breasts and changes wrought by conception, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Phillips focuses on uses of breastmilk in medicine, finding ‘woman’s milk’ a valued commodity in cures including for eye diseases, fever, migraine and ‘frenzy’. She explores literate ‘memories’ of breastmilk in ancient medicine and possible oral communities of medical innovation.