Understanding the human body in medieval medicine and drama

(11-17-2010)

The final presentation in the 2010 fall Faculty Lecture series is "Bursting Brains and Laudable Pus: The Spectacular Economy of Flesh and Fluids in Medieval Medicine and Drama", by Dr. Sarah Owens, assistant professor of English, begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, in Porter Hall (the science building) room 130.

The fascination with the fragmented body exhibited in late medieval English culture is founded on an obsessive need to see, feel, and experience the body in all its messy corporeality. This is part of a larger trend toward the end of the medieval period, when dissection became increasingly common and anatomical illustrations became available to a wide audience. It has been argued that the Renaissance offered the first chance for the body's interior to become the object of "humane knowledge." Owens contends that late medieval people were curious about how the body functioned, and they consumed information about corporeal interiority with relish. "While we may not recognize medieval medical illustrations as 'accurate,' we must recognize that such illustrations were part of a vast economy of bodily exhibition."

Owens aims to demonstrate the essential role of the visual in understanding the human body in medieval medicine and drama. "We will see that advances in dissection methods exerted a strong influence over popular ideas about corporeal interiority and the value of displaying it. We will also see that while realistic representation of the interior organs is important to a modern assessment of medical illustration, it was secondary to medieval considerations of use value."

All talks are free and the public is invited. Complimentary light refreshments will be offered. For further information on the series of lectures, contact Dr. Robert Astalos, associate professor of physics, at 719-587-7821, or by email: rjastalos@adams.edu.

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