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Fiche de cours

Medieval English : Writing, Disease and Altered States

Faculté de gestion: Faculté des lettres

Responsable(s): Denis Renevey
Intervenant(s): -

Période de validité: 2010 -> 2010

Pas d'horaire défini.


Semestre d'automne
2 heures par semaine
28 heures par semestre

Langue(s) d'enseignement: anglais
Public: Oui
Crédits: 0


How did medieval people relate to their own bodies? How did they understand the process of disease? And to what extent were they able to shape bodies afflicted by disease into positively loaded signs? This seminar explores the relationship medieval society developed with regard to disease by a consideration of several significant texts and genres of writings. We begin by first looking at medieval perceptions of the body and the healing process that were envisaged then. Following this brief introduction, we consider three main aspects about writing and disease. Firstly, we look at the way in which medical discourse is rendered in Middle English writings through a sample of extracts from medical treatises. Secondly, we look at the way in which disease is written in in medieval literature, by considering first the interface between medicine and religion through a thirteenth-century rule for anchoresses, and the stories offered by a surgeon to his patients as demonstration of his authority and skills. We then move on to a consideration of the representation of disease in (pseudo-) autobiographical writings encoded in the form of 'complaints', written by Charles of Orleans and Thomas Hoccleve, among others. The seminar ends with a sustained consideration of the process of writing induced by an altered state. We first read about how altered state of consciousness is induced in the medieval period, and how it is 'translated' by both those who have been transformed by the experience, and those who have been witness to it. Altered states of consciousness can be the source for literary stimulation: we will look at its literary significance for Julian of Norwich. We end by reading extracts of The Book of Margery Kempe, which will lead us to ask whether madness is an altered state, and whether it may trigger literary activity? And if so, was Margery Kempe's state of consciousness so profoundly altered that we may qualify it as madness?


Students will be assessed by means of active participation and the submission of an essay.


A reader will be provided.

Informations supplémentaires


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