Book ID: CBB164983917

Madness, Medicine and Miracle in Twelfth-Century England (2019)


Trenery, Claire (Author)


Publication Date: 2019
Physical Details: 196
Language: English

This book explores how madness was defined and diagnosed as a condition of the mind in the Middle Ages and what effects it was thought to have on the bodies, minds and souls of sufferers. Madness is examined through narratives of miraculous punishment and healing that were recorded at the shrines of saints. This study focuses on the twelfth century, which has been identified as a ‘Medieval Renaissance’: a time of cultural and intellectual change that saw, among other things, the circulation of new medical treatises that brought with them a wealth of new ideas about illness and health. With the expanding authority of the Roman Church and the tightening of papal control over canonisation procedures in this period, historians have claimed that there was a ‘rationalisation’ of the miraculous. In miracle records, illnesses were explained using newly-accessible humoral theories rather than attributed to divine and demonic forces, as they had been previously. The first book-length study of madness in medieval religion and medicine to be published since 1992, this book challenges these claims and reveals something of the limitations of the so-called ‘medicalisation’ of the miraculous. Throughout the twelfth century, demons continue to lurk in miracle records relating to one condition in particular: madness. Five case studies of miracle collections compiled between 1070 and 1220 reveal that hagiographical representations of madness were heavily influenced by the individual circumstances of their recording and yet were shaped as much by hagiographical patterns that had been developing throughout the twelfth century as they were by new medical and theological standards.

Reviewed By

Review Stephen Gordon (2019) Review of "Madness, Medicine and Miracle in Twelfth-Century England". Social History of Medicine (pp. 872-873). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Duffin, Jacalyn M.
Wallis, Faith
Hayward, Rhodri
Pomata, Gianna
Ibn Baklarish, Yusuf ibn Ishaq
Burnett, Charles
History of Psychiatry
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Parergon: Bulletin of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Journal of the History of Ideas
Oxford University Press
Arcadian Library
Cambridge University Press
New York, City University of
Johns Hopkins University
Medicine and religion
Mental disorders and diseases
Science and religion
Theophilus Presbyter
Malpighi, Marcello
Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye
Burton, Robert
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
12th century
Early modern
19th century
Great Britain

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