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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Meg Leja (Binghamton University): "Mending Bodies by (A)mending Texts: Medical Manuscripts from the Early Middle Ages"

Drawing of a physician picking herbs from Paris, BnF lat. 6862, f. 18v (detail)
Drawing of a physician picking herbs, labeled 'scolapius' (from Asclepius, the god of medicine). Paris, BnF lat. 6862, f. 18v (detail).

Monday, February 21, 2022, 5:15pm, in person and via Zoom*

*For Zoom information, please please contact Aylin Malcolm.

Our speaker writes:

What did it mean to copy and promote medical learning during a period still often considered the “Dark Ages”? Are the manuscripts that survive attempts to simply preserve and imitate classical culture or were these seen as practical guides, to be actively used in healing interactions? This talk introduces the corpus of Latin medical writings extant in manuscripts from the late eighth century onward—a corpus that is far larger and more diverse than has previously been recognized. It probes what we can discover about the agendas of anonymous scribes who transformed the medical knowledge they copied in various ways, not least by adapting the inventions of so-called pagans into Christian wisdom. In its examination of texts and images in specific Carolingian medical manuscripts, the talk assesses the boundaries between philosophy and applied practice and considers how the care of the soul was understood to guide and shape the care of the body. 

About our speaker:

Meg Leja is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the early Middle Ages and deals with manuscript studies, the history of masculinity, the theology of the body, and premodern medicine and health. Her first book is forthcoming in May 2022 with Penn Press and is entitled Embodying the Soul: Medicine and Religion in Carolingian Europe. She spent the 2017–2018 academic year at Penn as a Mellon fellow at the Wolf Humanities Center for the topic on “Afterlives.”

Talks will be held live, in person, in the Class of 78 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. They will also be available via Zoom (please contact us for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.