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Author Sweet, Victoria
Title Body as plant, doctor as gardener: Premodern medicine in Hildegard of Bingen's "Causes and Cures"
Descript 432 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 64-10, Section: A, page: 3821
Adviser: Warwick Anderson
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of California, San Francisco, 2003
For more than two thousand years, the West embraced an understanding of the body remarkably similar to that of China and India. Known as humoral theory, it explained the body with the concepts of the four elements---earth, water, air, fire---the four qualities---hot, cold, wet, dry---and the four humors---blood, bile, phlegm, and melancholia. Health and disease, life and death, heredity and environment were understood to affect the body through these concepts. Then, in less than a century, the West decisively rejected this model. Today it is taught only as preface to modernity---a philosophical system that survived because of its authority, explanatory power, and a Western fascination with the number four
But how did this system work for a medical practitioner? This dissertation analyzes the premodern understanding of the body in the oldest complete text of practical medicine attached to a well-documented person, the twelfth-century Causes and Cures of Hildegard of Bingen
Chapter One examines Hildegard's life, using primary and secondary sources, including biography, autobiography, archaeological findings, artistic data, and a remarkable 1000 word glossary of her own invention. Chapter Two places the text within twelfth century medical practice. Chapters Three, Four, and Five analyze Causes and Cures' use of the elements, qualities, and humors, as well as Hildegard's concept of "greenness." It places her explicit and implicit versions of these against a background of medicine, theology, and horticulture. It reaches three conclusions. First, the system of elements, qualities, humors was integrated into the thinking of the medical practitioner, a deeply-felt part of how the body was understood. thought of as---the elements of gardening, the qualities of weather, and the humors of plant saps and bodily fluids. Thirdly, the concepts were linked by the movement of sun over earth, daily and yearly. It was this movement that explained the coming-into-being and passing-away of the elements and seasons, the orderly changes of the qualities of weather, and the cyclical fluctuations of saps and humors
School code: 0034
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 64-10A
Subject History of Science
History, Medieval
History, European
Alt Author University of California, San Francisco
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