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Week 1: The Early Modern Body

Lecturer: Sophie Mann

The early modern body is almost unrecognisable to modern eyes. It was defined by classical medical discourses, religious beliefs and a pre-Cartesian view that bodies and minds were rarely separate. The pre-modern body housed an immortal soul, it was made up of humours and fluxes, it was mutable and sometimes magical. This seminar will investigate central ideas about the early modern body and how it worked. It will also explore a practice gaining marked significance from the sixteenth century onwards: anatomical dissection.


Discussion/Essay Questions

1. How did early modern contemporaries understand the human body and its functioning?
2. How did religious beliefs interact with those of medicine?
3. What were the aims of anatomical dissection?
4. Was anatomy revolutionary in this period?


Core Readings:

***All readings can be found through the library catalogue as e-books, or via the library's reading list for HI176--search for the module through the link here.

Siraisi, Nancy E., Medieval & Early Renaissance Medicine: an Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (Chicago, 1990), Chapter 4: pp. 78-115. [e-book]

Andrew Cunningham, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients (1997), 'Chapter 4: Vesalius: The Revival of Galenic Anatomy,' pp. 88-142 [e-book]

Katharine Park, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation and the Origins of Human Dissection, Chapter 5 ‘The Empire of Anatomy’ p. 207-260. If you have time also have a look at chapter 1 ‘Holy Anatomies’. [e-book]


Further Reading:

The Early Modern Body and Early Modern Medicine:
▪ Gowland, Angus, ‘Medicine, Psychology, and the Melancholic Subject in the Renaissance’, Elena Carrera and Andrew Colin Gow (eds), Emotions and Health, 1200-1700 (Leiden, 2013), pp. 185-219

▪ Nutton, Vivian, ‘Humoralism’, in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, eds, Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, vol. 1 (London, 1993), pp. 281-291.

▪ Lindemann, Mary, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

▪ Park, Katharine, ‘The Organic Soul’, in Charles B. Schmitt and Quentin Skinner (eds.), The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 464-484.

▪Toulalan, Sarah and Kate Fisher, eds. The Routledge History of Sex and the Body 1500 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2013)

Early Modern Anatomy:

▪ Carlino, Andrea, Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning (Chicago: 1999).
▪ Cunningham, Andrew, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients (1997).
▪ Kusukawa, Sachiko, Picturing the Book of Nature: Image, Text and Argument in Sixteenth-Century Human Anatomy and Medical Botany (Chicago, 2012), pp. 199-227.
▪ Website: Historical anatomies on the web http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/vesalius_home.html

The Early Modern Body, Medicine and Demonic Possession:

▪ Bonzol, Judith, 'The Medical Diagnosis of Demoniac Possession in an Early Modern English Communigy', Parergon 26,1 (2009): 115-140.
▪ Caciola, Nancy, ‘Mystics, Demoniacs, and the Physiology of Spirit Possession in Medieval Europe’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, 2 (2000): 268-306.