NEH Summer Seminar 2012
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leprous feetSeminar Overview

We are thrilled to have support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) to launch this collaborative project that combines new humanistic and scientific approaches to exploring experiences of health, disease, and disability in premodern times.

Dialogue between medical historians and other medieval scholars has been going on for some time and wonderful advances have been made in pushing forward philological work in editing major and minor texts; pinpointing the development of medical vocabularies (especially in the vernacular languages); and finding analytical methods for better understanding the meanings of medical illustration. This Seminar will survey the best work in each of these areas.

But we will go further. We will add another dimension to the methods that can be used to understand the ways societies of the past have wrestled with the body and its physical limitations: we will add modern science to the dialogue by engaging with the related fields of paleopathology and paleomicrobiology. By focusing literally on the physical remains of human bodies, these scientific disciplines allow medievalists to step outside their texts and images and see the medieval world from a new perspective.

Thus, this Seminar will offer a comprehensive guide to current humanistic and scientific views on the medieval landscape of health and disease, healing and disability. We will cast our net broadly to look not only at western Europe, but also the Islamic world which inspired the West's intellectual systems and shared its exposure to the same infectious diseases.

The seminar co-Directors, Monica H. Green, Ph.D., Professor of History at Arizona State University, and Rachel E. Scott, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Bioarcheology, also at Arizona State University, bring complementary skills and, between them, over 30 years of teaching experience. Together, their research covers a geographic range from Italy to Ireland, and a methodological range from philology and textual analysis to paleopathology and biocultural anthropology. Three guest lecturers, all senior scholars, will bring expertise in the particular areas of balneology, leprosy, and plague and the dynamics of epidemic disease. The combined talents of the co-Directors and the guest lecturers will provide a full array of the historiographical approaches to medieval medical history and the techniques and analytical perspectives of paleopathology.

Download a pdf of the “Dear Colleague” letter from the Directors, which gives an overview of the Seminar's objectives and structure, as well as information on the Wellcome Library and other research resources, accommodation, participant stipend and expenses, and the application process.

Click here to download the Dear Colleague Letter

For a report on the 2009 NEH Summer Seminar, "Disease in the Middle Ages," click here.

Click here to view Participant Stipend and Housing details.

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