Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Abstract

During the late Middle Ages, the experience of plague pervaded the discourse of the body and influenced such disparate subjects as anatomy and art. These cultural motifs were expressed in a variety of ways that correlated the experience of plague with the mortification of the flesh required for Christian martyrdom. Similar ideas were expressed in how medical practitioners conceptualized and justified postmortems and university dissections. The somatic nature of Christian spirituality resonates through the images of plague saints with those of anatomical illustrations of dissected figures. It links together the bodily experience of saints, dissected criminals, and sufferers of plague. This theme culminates in the time when the influences of the physical experience of plague are most visible : following the Italian epidemic of 1477- 79. During this period the Italian peninsula experienced the swift advent of the cult of St. Roch, a sudden shift in the presentation of St. Sebastian, and the rise in anatomical research and dissection culminating in the publication of Berengario da Carpi ' s "Isagogae Breves" in 1 523 . The history of plague and the history of anatomy are intimately linked. The purpose of this essay is to explore the common thread of Christian ideas about physicality and suffering that arise in both plague narratives and medical texts, a theme that remains under-examined in current historiographies of both plague and medieval medicine .

Share

COinS