Beyond the Body: The Boundaries of Medicine and English Renaissance Drama.William Kerwin. Beyond the Body: The Boundaries of Medicine and English Renaissance Drama.
Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press The University of Massachusetts Press is a university press that is part of the University of Massachusetts. External link
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m : 1-55849-482-0.
The physician Everard Maynwaring insists his Medicus absolutus (1668) is "a Touch-stone" by which the true, learned physician might be distinguished from the charlatan char·la·tan
A person fraudulently claiming knowledge and skills not possessed.
charlatan (shar´l : "him that hath been trained up in Manufacture, Buying and Selling, or a loose idle life," ill fits for the "grand Business" of medicine. In his deft, wide-ranging, and occasionally rewarding study, William Kerwin explores the distinctions conjured in Maynwaring's polemic: in five "case studies" (1, 8) involving apothecaries, women practitioners, surgeons, physicians, and patients, Kerwin investigates the "social dynamics of medical culture" as they were played out in early modern medical debates and on the English stage (10). Kerwin is concerned with "narratives from outside medicine that end up shaping medical history," with the "frames" of medical theory and medical practice, and with the ways in which histories of medicine should not, perhaps cannot, be immured from various social pressures and pulsions (1, 5, 6, 9, 13). He argues that "nonmedical narratives" are "determinants of the lived affect of medical practice and medical culture" (17). Yet drama is the sole "nonmedical" area of inquiry present in Beyond the Body there is little from the patient's view, less from the rich store of historical work on questions of early modern medical experience, and next to no contemporary scholarship about the varied intersections of literature and medicine in the period. Instead, Kerwin argues for drama's singular efficacy in "opening up" the "social imagination" of early modern medicine (10).
After acquainting us with his externalist program, Kerwin explores the ways in which apothecaries and alchemists were "part of an early modern culture of commerce" (19) as well as a "drug culture redefined by new markets, new class relations, and a new sense of the liquidity of wealth" (18). Using a diverse array of sources, including masques, Romeo and Juliet Romeo and Juliet
star-crossed lovers die as teenagers. [Br. Lit.: Romeo and Juliet]
See : Death, Premature
Romeo and Juliet
archetypal star-crossed lovers. [Br. Lit. , and Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, Kerwin suggests that alchemists and apothecaries challenge the social order with "a new empiricism" (22): "the pharmaceutical is the political" (20). Chapter 3 claims that early modern English Early Modern English refers to the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period (the latter half of the 15th century) to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase drama "gives us a symbolic woman healer whose story carries traces of a series of historical conflicts" (64), conflicts which Kerwin adumbrates in the figure of Medea, vilified as harmful but valued as a "magician-healer" (65). Contemporary prosecution of women practitioners stands in contrast to their dramatic representation as socially and spiritually powerful: onstage, women healers are "social reformer[s]," a type that "emerges in the drama of the period directly from the historical tradition," in which they moved from powerlessness to authority (83, 87, 91).
Chapter 4 treats surgeons, satire, and inwardness in·ward·ness
1. Intimacy; familiarity.
2. Preoccupation with one's own thoughts or feelings; introspection.
3. The intrinsic or indispensable properties of something; essence.
Noun 1. . Kerwin argues that surgeons were not only revealers of interiority (his champion is Vesalius) but custodians of appearance: above all, early modern surgery was "an art of concealment" (100). Noting the usual connections between surgery and satire, Kerwin contends that surgery was in some sense about the dialect between inside and outside, between a concealed interior and a public face. True, surgeons produced prosthetics and were concerned with appearance, but their main work was decidedly visceral, sanguine, osteal os·te·al
1. Bony; osseous.
2. Relating to bone or to the skeleton. ; he seems to confuse barbers and surgeons, as with his claim that surgeons "were affiliated with the project of crafting an exterior image" (105). Similarly, Kerwin's claim that Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida Troilus and Cressida (troi`ləs, krĕs`ĭdə), a medieval romance distantly related to characters in Greek legend. Troilus, a Trojan prince (son of Priam and Hecuba), fell in love with Cressida (Chryseis), daughter of Calchas. is "a play about the social contradictions that shaped ... the early modern roles of surgeons" (122) is odd.
In chapter 5, Kerwin argues that "the physician more than any other practitioner is defined in the period through the aesthetics of theatre" (131). Kerwin's argument is complex and spurring: briefly, in order to distance themselves from empirics, physicians employed theatrical tropes, accusing their competitors of empty, histrionic histrionic /his·tri·on·ic/ (his?tre-on´ik) excessively dramatic or emotional, as in histrionic personality disorder; see under personality. performance rather than solid learning and sound practice; yet physicians themselves had to persuade, and persuasion required performance and an audience. Here his readings are dextrous dex·trous
Variant of dexterous.
Adj. 1. dextrous - skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands; "a deft waiter"; "deft fingers massaged her face"; "dexterous of hand and inventive of mind" and subtle, and he illuminates both Samuel Daniel's The Queenes Arcadia and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi with acuity.
The final chapter of the book is the most successful. Kerwin offers a rousing and engaging reading of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night as a play of "diagnosis" (195). For Kerwin, Shakespeare's skepticism about "anchoring identity in bodily terms," both with respect to his treatment of Orsino's lovesickness love·sick
1. So deeply affected by love as to be unable to act normally.
2. Exhibiting a lover's yearning.
love (213) and his "humoral hu·mor·al
1. Relating to body fluids, especially serum.
2. Relating to or arising from any of the bodily humors.
Pertaining to or derived from a body fluid. essentialism essentialism
In ontology, the view that some properties of objects are essential to them. The “essence” of a thing is conceived as the totality of its essential properties. ," is writ large in the play: Shakespeare satirizes "languages of healing that ignore social circumstance" (224). Medicine, Kerwin writes, needs a fool--one who is charged with keeping it honest, as it were, by insisting that its narratives are intricated in broader social, political, and cultural processes.
Still, there are problems with Beyond the Body. First, there are numerous textual errors, some egregious (for example, "William Cowley" for "Abraham Cowley" [171 and index]). Second, although Kerwin mentions rhetoric often, he seems quite unaware that physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries contested and secured scenes and methods of inquiry rhetorically. Oddly, even though he claims that physicians "learned" to "defend an identity" through "persuasion" (172), there is almost no attention to rhetoric in Beyond the Body. Third, Kerwin seems unwilling to recognize early modern medicine's recalcitrant eclecticism eclecticism, in art
eclecticism (ĭklĕk`tĭsĭz'əm), art style in which features are borrowed from various styles. : the roiling world of humoralism, for example, was never one of "simplistic sim·plism
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.
[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple order" or "fixity fix·i·ty
n. pl. fix·i·ties
1. The quality or condition of being fixed.
2. Something fixed or immovable. " (215-16). Finally, Kerwin relies too heavily on medical-historical scholarship that has been superseded; and to literary scholarship on the role of physicians in early modern English drama, he adds little.
Kerwin calls his project "cultural poetics" (7), but the terms he uses to suggest affinity between disparate texts or seemingly unrelated discourses are vague and his "cultural poetics" is muddled. He never makes the case, perhaps because one cannot, that drama influences the social perception of medicine, nor does he explore the affinities, so very prominent in the mid-seventeenth century, between medical theory and theories of dramatic reception and composition. Kerwin is at his best in close readings of the plays; his attempts at enlisting drama in the redefinition of early modern medicine are less successful. Beyond the Body only rarely convinces that drama is one of the narratives that "end[s] up shaping medical history" (5).
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