Beholding Disability in Renaissance England
How disability and ableism took shape in Renaissance England
Human variation has always existed, though it has been conceived of and responded to variably. Beholding Disability in Renaissance England interprets sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature to explore the fraught distinctiveness of human bodyminds and the deliberate ways they were constructed in early modernity as able, and not. Hobgood examines early modern disability, ableism, and disability gain, purposefully employing these contemporary concepts to make clear how disability has historically been disavowed—and avowed too. Thus, this book models how modern ideas and terms make the weight of the past more visible as it marks the present, and cultivates dialogue in which early modern and contemporary theoretical models are mutually informative.
Beholding Disability also uncovers crucial counterdiscourses circulating in the English Renaissance that opposed cultural fantasies of ability and had a keen sensibility toward non-normative embodiments. Hobgood reads impairments as varied as epilepsy, stuttering, disfigurement, deafness, chronic pain, blindness, and castration in order to understand not just powerful fictions of ability present during the Renaissance but also the somewhat paradoxical, surprising ways these ableist ideals provided creative fodder for many Renaissance writers and thinkers. Ultimately, Beholding Disability asks us to reconsider what we think we know about being human both in early modernity, and today.
More information on the editor website.
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.
- Introduction and Epidemiological Perspective — Rinaldo F. Canalis and Massimo Ciavolella
Part I. Medieval and Transitional Periods
- The Art of Medicine in Byzantium: Disease and Disability in Byzantine Manuscripts — Alain Touwaide
- Miracle and the Monstrous: Disability and Deviant Bodies in the Late Middle Ages — Jenni Kuuliala
- Leprosy, Melancholy, Folly and their Representations in French Medieval Literature — Gaia Gubini
- Malady in Literary Texts from the Medieval and Early Modern Periods. Some Hypotheses on a Paradoxical Constellation — Joachim Küpper
- Fevers, Botches and Carbuncles: Describing the Plague in Late Medieval and Early Modern Medical Treatises — Lori Jones
Part II. The Early Modern Period
- The Role of Architecture and the Decorative Arts in Renaissance Medicine — Francis Wells
- Art in Disease and Disease in Art: Reflections on Two Early Modern Paradigmatic Examples — Manuela Gallerani
- The Mal Franzoso: Between Art, History and Literature: Paracelso and Della Porta — Alfonso Paolella
- The Ailing Artist — Roberto Fedi
- Nicolas Poussin`s The Plague at Ashdod and the French Disease — Efrain Kristal
- ‘Yet have I in me something dangerous’: On the Interplay of Medicine and Maleficence in Shakespeare’s Hamlet — Sara Frances Burdorff
- Textures of Lesions – Textures of Prints — Domenico Bertoloni Meli
More info on the editor website
Presents a history of plague, bringing together scholars from early modern and modern history as well as anthropologists working on plague in historical and contemporary contexts
Examines the visual record of the plague and explores the relationship between the epidemic image and human imagination
Integrates geographical perspectives beyond the usual Eurocentric plague frame, appealing to scholars of global history and colonialism
This edited collection brings together new research by world-leading historians and anthropologists to examine the interaction between images of plague in different temporal and spatial contexts, and the imagination of the disease from the Middle Ages to today. The chapters in this book illuminate to what extent the image of plague has not simply reflected, but also impacted the way in which the disease is experienced in different historical periods. The book asks what is the contribution of the entanglement between epidemic image and imagination to the persistence of plague as a category of human suffering across so many centuries, in spite of profound shifts in our medical understanding of the disease. What is it that makes plague such a visually charismatic subject? And why is the medical, religious and lay imagination of plague so consistently determined by the visual register? In answering these questions, this volume takes the study of plague images beyond its usual, art-historical framework, so as to examine them and their relation to the imagination of plague from medical, historical, visual anthropological, and postcolonial perspectives.
More info on the editor website