“Early Modern Practitioners” at Exeter

There’s a new website up for the exciting prosopographical project underway at the University of Exeter, “The Medical World of England, Wales and Ireland, c. 1500-1715.” The website is called Early Modern Practitioners and provides an overview of the project, sample data, a “practitioner of the month,” and more. Ultimately, this project will take the form of a database containing biographies of all the active medical practitioners during the time period and in the locations of the project’s title as well as a study of the data compiled which will be published as a major monograph.

This project will build in part on the work I’ve previously mentioned completed by Margaret Pelling. As someone with keen interest in this subject and who has conducted a considerable amount of research in this area, it is my opinion that this is work that very much needs to be done. Although there has been excellent and extensive work on the key players in this time period—think William Harvey—the truth is, there aren’t that many William Harveys. A lot of the big names in medicine (and related fields) are coming out of other parts of Europe; Great Britain is noticeably behind the continent in medical advancement (as well as most other areas) during the Renaissance.

But this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a vibrant medical scene in England, Wales, and Ireland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In fact, as the website explains:

The sheer numbers of people who practised medicine in some form or other during the medieval and early modern periods are overwhelming. Medical practitioners were, quite literally, everywhere. From ‘formal’ trained and licensed physicians across to the village blacksmith who might perform a secondary role as tooth-drawer, the types of practitioner are also legion. All of the terms below can be found in early modern sources as descriptive terms for practitioners, including their various derivatives and alternative spellings) and this list is by no means exhaustive.

Physic (Phisic, Physick, Phisique, Fisick(e)), Physician, Doctor (of medicine), licentiate, Practicer, Practitioner, Apothecary (pothecary, poticary), Surgeon, Chirurgeon (Chirurgion), Barber, Barber-Surgeon, Mounteban(c)k, Druggist, Chemist, Midwife, Peruke-maker.

This legion of individuals is indeed a rich cross-section of early modern culture, and it will be vastly interesting to see what insights this project develops.

Although I certainly hope that Crooke will be a part of this database, in truth he falls somewhere between this vast majority of medical practitioners and those well-known names like Harvey. Although not widely considered a major contributor to his field, and certainly not a readily recognizable name for most people, Crooke has in fact received much more attention than many of his contemporary physicians, as William Birken has reminded me. But it may be precisely because of this in-between role that he maintains—his part as an “irregular,” as Pelling calls this group—that Crooke may be particularly situated to lend helpful insight to some of the questions raised by this project and related inquiries.


Sawday to Keynote CCC Conference at UIowa

Organizing the 13th annual Craft Critique Culture conference at the University of Iowa is just one of the many things keeping me from completing a new blog post, so I thought I’d let both projects serve the other by posting the CFP here. Our submission deadline has just been pushed back to February 8.

Most exciting in relation to the subject matter of this blog is our guest keynote speaker, Dr. Jonathan Sawday. Sawday, a cultural historian and author of The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture, is Walter J. Ong, S.J., chair in the humanities and currently serves as chairperson of the English department at St. Louis University. I once had dinner with Dr. Sawday, who told me that back in England he had perused a copy of Mikrokosmographia the pages of which were splattered with blood from the anatomy theater. Sawday’s current work on blanks and voids in literature, art, and culture ties into our conference theme, “Into the Void.” See CFP below (feel free to pass on/circulate):

The 13th Annual Craft Critique Culture Conference

Into the Void

March 29-30, 2012

University of Iowa

But in the midst of the long row there hangs a canvas which differs from the others. . . . on this one plate no name is inscribed, and the linen within the frame is snow-white from corner to corner, a blank page.

                                                                                                — Isak Dinesen, “The Blank Page”

As an interdisciplinary conference, CCC itself enters into the void between disciplines. We seek papers from the broadest variety of fields (English, philosophy, history, law, classical studies, anthropology, art, sociology, theater, political science, psychology, etc.), from the full range of approaches and time periods, as well as work that is itself interdisciplinary (cultural studies, book history, religious studies, bioethics and humanities, media studies, digital humanities, etc.). We want to hear about the voids you encounter in literature, art, culture, and even the sciences. Voids can be frightening areas of the unknown, the empty, the uncharted, but as such they can also be spaces for incredible opportunity and discovery.

The word “void” is both spatial and conceptual. As a noun, it can signify a blank page, an empty room, or ineffective speech; as a verb, it can render vacant, exhaust a subject, nullify or annul. The void is gap, absence, lack—but also possibility, purity, and potential. How is the void figured in art, music, literature, and film? Is there an aesthetic of the void? A language of the void? How does the artist or author negotiate the void? How does the audience or reader negotiate it? How is the void made productive? How does encountering the void affect/alter identity? How are voids deployed in order to manipulate or appease?

Topics could include:

  • Blank spaces in works of literature, film, art, etc.
  • Opportunity created by a void
  • Concepts of “impossible speech”
  • Performing the void
  • Voids in translation
  • Identity voids
  • Spatial voids
  • Poetics of the void
  • Anxiety of the void
  • Geographical voids
  • Ethics of the void
  • Ellipsis
  • Liminality
  • Marginality
  • Politics and the void
  • Anything related to gaps, spaces, fissures, emptiness, holes, darkness, blankness, unboundedness, openness, etc.

Craft Critique Culture is an interdisciplinary conference focusing on the intersections among critical and creative approaches to writing both within and beyond the academy. We invite the submission of critical, theoretical, and original creative work in a variety of media and across the humanities, sciences, and legal disciplines. In the past, submissions have included not only traditional scholarly papers but also film, video, music, writing, visual art and artists’ books, and performance. There are all kinds of voids to explore, in all kinds of ways.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 350 words. Full panels (featuring three papers) may also be proposed. Each panel proposal should consist of three abstracts and a brief explanation of the panel’s purpose and relevance to the conference. Each panel submission should total no more than 1,000 words. Please include name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), street address, telephone number, and email address on all abstracts and proposals.  Please submit all paper abstracts or panel proposals to Craft Critique Culture, studorg-c3conf@uiowa.edu. Submission deadline is February 8, 2013.