Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Blindness and Therapy in Late Medieval French and Italian Poetry

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Blindness and Therapy in Late Medieval French and Italian Poetry

Article excerpt

Julie Singer, Blindness and Therapy in Late Medieval French and Italian Poetry, Gallica 20 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2011). ? + 238 pp.; 3 plates. ISBN 978-1-84384-272-9. £60.00/199.00.

Julie Singer's Blindness and Therapy in Late Medieval French and Italian Poetry combines the latest scholarship on medieval optics in literary texts and on the history of medicine and of disability to argue that fourteenth- and fifteenthcentury poets, from Petrarch and Machaut to Charles d'Orléans, offer rhetorical cures or therapies for blindness and ocular deficiency in their lyric poetry.

In her introduction, Singer outlines the bases for the study of the medieval relationship between medicine and rhetoric with particular reference to blindness. In the visual model of innamoralo dominant in the medieval lyric, Singer explores the question of how one could fall in love if bund or suffering from an ocular deficiency. Singer argues that there is an increasing 'medicauzation' of late medieval lyric to the point that it seems that poets proposed the lyric as an alternative to medical treatment. The first chapter offers a definition of the loveimprint and charts its history in medieval poetry from its earliest appearance in French and Occitan poetry to its concrétisation in the Sicilian poets, who fused ßn'amors with Arabo-Aristotelian optical theories. She shows the development of the love -imprint into an ophthalmic model in the stilnovisti and its diffusion through Italy and France from Petrarch until the sixteenth century. The second chapter builds on the linguistic parallels between rhetoric and humoral medicine outlined in the introduction, namely that illness is caused by humoral imbalances: hyperbole (superfluidity) or elleipsis (lack). Singer examines Petrarch's anti-medical writings, his Invective contra medicum and his later letters from the Familiares and Seniles, in which an incompetent medical practitioner is represented as blind, and argues that, for Petrarch, medical doctors should not appropriate rhetoric, while poets can offer curative lyrics. …

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