NEH Summer Seminar 2009 Logo
Disease in the Middle Ages Logo
Seminar Overview

We are thrilled to have support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) to launch this first-ever collaborative project that combines new humanistic and scientific approaches to exploring the past experiences of health, disease, and disability in premodern times.

Dialogue between medical historians and other medieval scholars has been going on for some time and wonderful advances have been made in pushing forward philological work in editing major and minor texts; pinpointing the development of medical vocabularies (especially in the vernacular languages); and finding analytical methods for better understanding the meanings that medical illustration had.

We will add an additional dimension to the methods that can be used to understand the ways societies of the past have wrestled with the body and its physical limitations: we will add modern science to the dialogue by engaging with the related fields of paleopathology and paleomicrobiology, which allow a new kind of understanding of disease and disability. By focusing literally on the physical remains of human bodies, these scientific disciplines allow medievalists to step outside their texts and images and see the medieval world from a new perspective.

Thus, this Seminar will offer a panoramic view of current humanistic as well as scientific views on the medieval landscape of health and disease, healing and disability. We will cast our net broadly to look not only at western Europe, but also the Islamic world which shared and even inspired the West’s intellectual systems as well as sharing its exposure to the same infectious diseases.

The seminar co-directors, Monica H. Green, Ph.D., Professor of History at Arizona State University,and Walton O. Schalick, III, M.D./Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History of Medicine and Bioethics and of Pediatrics, Orthopedics & Rehabilitation and History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, bring complementary skills and, between them, over 40 years of teaching experience. Together, their research covers a geographic range from Italy to England, and a methodological range from philology and textual analysis to pharmaceutics and disability studies. Three guest lecturers, all senior scholars, will bring expertise in the particular areas of Islamic medicine, medieval paleopathology, and the history of surgery. The combined talents of the co-directors and the guest lecturers will offer you a full array of the historiographical approaches to medieval medical and disability history.

Further information can be found on the Details page of our web site. Please note the deadline for applications is 2 March 2009.