Parution : Rinaldo F. Canalis, Massimo Ciavolella (dir.), « Disease and Disability in Medieval and Early Modern Art and Literature », Turnhout, Brepols, 2021
Humanity has always shown a keen interest in the pathological, ranging from a morbid fascination with ‘monsters’ and deformities to a genuine compassion for the ill and suffering. Medieval and early modern people were no exception, expressing their emotional response to disease in both literary works and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in the plastic arts. Consequently, it becomes necessary to ask what motivated writers and artists to choose an illness or a disability and its physical and social consequences as subjects of aesthetic or intellectual expression. Were these works the result of an intrusion in their intent to faithfully reproduce nature, or do they reflect an intentional contrast against the pre-modern portrayal of spiritual ideals and, later, through the influence of the classics, the rediscovered importance and beauty of the human body?
The essays contained in this volume address these questions, albeit not always directly but, rather, through an analysis of the societal reactions to the threats and challenges that essentially unopposed disease and physical impairment presented. They cover a wide range of responses, variable, of course, according to the period under scrutiny, its technological moment, and the usually fruitless attempts at treatment.
Rinaldo F. Canalis, MD FACS, is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery (Otolaryngology) at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Associated Faculty in the UCLA Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He has written numerous articles on the history of Renaissance medicine and on the pathology of pre-Colombian peoples.
Massimo Ciavolella, PhD, taught for many years at Carleton University (Ottawa) and at the University of Toronto before coming to his present positions as Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, Franklin D. Murphy Chair in Italian Renaissance Studies, and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.