Thesis ID: CBB595127091

Embodied Temporalities: Reproduction, Illness, and Chronobiopolitics in Medieval France (2023)


This doctoral thesis explores how the genealogical preoccupations of late medieval romance texts from the Arthurian canon shaped cultural and intellectual understandings of the impaired body in relation to time. The primary romance texts in my corpus, Le Roman de Merlin, La Queste del Saint Graal, and Le Roman de Mélusine, coincide with the vernacularization of medicine in Western Europe. I examine depictions of non-normate bodies in medieval medical texts alongside works of romance, such as Aldebrandin of Siena’s Livre de Phisike (The Book of Medicine), the Trotula, and the De Secretis Mulierum (On Women’s Secrets), texts which repeat and interpret many of the same ideas of Classical physicians such as Galen, Hippocrates, and Aristotle, thanks especially to translations by Arabic intermediaries. My first chapter looks specifically at bodies in pre-modern medical literature, and how women’s bodies are imbued with the chronobionormative imperative to reproduce. In my second chapter, I look at representations of lactation and menstruation in romance. My third chapter focuses on demonic intervention in reproduction and representations of neonates with congenital anomalies. Finally, the fourth chapter examines visual and textual tropes of leprosy in the medieval period and beyond. Applying methods of literary studies and history of medicine to my comparative analysis of traditions of medicine and romance has led me to conclude that both genres are doing similar work of identifying categories of impairment to establish regimes of bodily differences, albeit to different ends. While medicine is concerned with identifying and treating these differences to treat and/or cure them, romance relies on the marvels of othered bodies to fulfill genealogical destinies, eventually requiring their assimilation or exile.

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Authors & Contributors
Touati, Françoise-Olivier
Park, Katharine
Read, Kirk D.
Brenner, Elma
Crozier, Ivan
Forth, Christopher E.
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Medicina nei Secoli - Arte e Scienza
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History
Amsterdam University Press
Ashgate Publishing
Boydell & Brewer
Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques
Medicine and gender
Human body
Leprosy (Hansen's disease)
Reproductive medicine
Foucault, Michel
Time Periods
16th century
17th century
15th century
12th century
Soviet Union

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