How come medieval knights could die from lovesickness but we can’t? What did the ancient Greeks do to deal with their anxiety? How is Renaissance melancholia different from present-day depression? These are all questions that concern the relationship between our bodies and our minds, and premodern people were just as interested in this relationship as we are today.
This class will offer an introduction to the history of premodern medicine with a focus on psychological health. It will cover a long range of history (from classical antiquity to the early modern period) but its main focus will be the European Middle Ages. We will read both medical and literary texts that tried to understand human minds and what makes them sick or healthy. Topics may include: self-help culture, sex and sexuality, emotions and love, diet and exercise, religion and magic, public health, and global pandemics.
This is a Junior Research Seminar, designed to introduce students from all backgrounds to a variety of literary and historical research methods and academic writing skills. Assignments will include a few research write-ups and a final research paper (10-15 pages) or a creative research project.