Sunday, April 29, 2018

Medieval Bodies: Life, death and art in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell

This is an ambitiously interdisciplinary study, combining medicine, history of art, and with a seasoning of theology. It is extravagantly illustrated in colour. The result is a readable and often successful attempt to impose an orderly framework on this account of a vast range of matters.

The book begins with a long general chapter on medieval bodies, sketching the realities of medieval life in terms which expect no prior knowledge, and touching rather lightly on religion, philosophy, and medical science. The sources of medical help for the sick are covered, from the academic study emerging in the new universities, to a variety of practical and charlatan assistance.

The book works its way, chapter by chapter, from the head to the senses, and to skin, bone, heart, blood, hands, stomach, genitals, and feet, with a con­cluding chapter on “future bodies”.

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