HARGREAVES, BARBARA,MARY (2021) NOT ‘FOR MEDICINAL USE ONLY’
HEALTHCARE NARRATIVES IN SAINTS’ LIVES
FROM TWELFTH-CENTURY ENGLAND. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.
In recent decades scholarly interest in hagiographical works has allowed for an increasingly multifaceted interpretation of these texts. This has led to their being recognised as valuable sources in contributing to a broader understanding of the medieval period and its expression of sanctity. This thesis looks specifically at health-related narratives from twelfth-century English saints’ lives written by someone who knew the saint or obtained eye-witness testimony of them. Of the ten saints considered, three are hermits, one is lay and six are monastic. Of the hagiographers who can be identified, one is a secular cleric and the others are monks.
In this study, the aim is to consider the detail of relevant accounts and show how, and why, the subject of ill-health was managed in a saint’s life. The topics that the hagiographers chose to write about are remarkably consistent across the century. Food, fever and death are constant subjects. The body of the saint is often a central feature, emaciated through fasting, suffering patiently, burning with fever or exalted to immutable white purity in death. Underlying tensions run through the narratives, shown as the writers sought to explicate seemingly incompatible features; the impact of sin, physical illness, debility and death when manifest within the person of a saint. While the focus of the accounts is unequivocally hagiographic, they also show evidence of the growth of medical science over the period, with an increasingly medicalised emphasis. The thesis argues that while the accounts may offer insight into medicine of the period, in order for any interpretation of the texts to be meaningful, they must be viewed first through the lens of hagiography, true to the purposes for which they were written, and not taken in isolation as pieces of medical history.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral)|
|Award:||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Keywords:||Hagiography. medicine, saints, monastic, twelfth century.|
|Faculty and Department:||Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of|
|Copyright:||Copyright of this thesis is held by the author|
|Deposited On:||23 Apr 2021 14:09|