Article ID: CBB748337184

Illness Narratives in the Later Middle Ages: Arderne, Chaucer, and Hoccleve (2016)


Thinkers such as Elaine Scarry and Kathlyn Conway have written about the problems of master narratives of illness: pain can mark the limits of what narrative can do. This essay argues that late medieval writers not only had an understanding of the impulse to fit illness into narrative structures but also understood the inherent limitation that emplotment and narrativization entails. Focusing on a doctor, John Arderne, a patient-poet, Thomas Hoccleve, and a poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, the essay explores how all three reveal their understanding of the artifice of narrativizing pain and illness. They present themselves as flawed and sick narrators, not as authoritative masters of the material of their texts. Surgeon and vernacular poet are connected by their social and cultural indeterminacy; they are vulnerable, feminized figures, aware of the contingency of their interpretations and the holes in their narratives. All focus on the limits of narrative and narrator alike, modeling the inability of narrative to make sense of pain.

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Authors & Contributors
Melehy, Hassan
Floyd-Wilson, Mary
Barbour, Reid
Matchinske, Megan
McCracken, Peggy
Steger, Florian
Gender Forum: An Internet Journal for Gender Studies
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
Social History of Medicine
Medicina nei Secoli - Arte e Scienza
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
University of Pennsylvania Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Wallstein Verlag
Medicine and literature
Poetry and poetics
Disease and diseases
Medicine and gender
Vesalius, Andreas
Chaucer, Geoffrey
Gower, John
Villena, Isabel de
Teresa, de Cartagena
Constanza, de Castilla, Sor
Time Periods
Early modern
17th century
15th century
16th century
Middle and Near East

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