Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Spanish & Portuguese

First Advisor

John Slater

Second Advisor

Andrés Prieto

Third Advisor

Leila Gómez

Abstract

El tejido retórico identifies a series of conventionalized rhetorical devices in a corpus of texts that includes the most salient vernacular treatises produced in the 16th century Spain. Considering medical discourse as a means for representation analogous to literature, this study analyzes medical rhetoric and the way it mediates the "fabrications" of both professional identities and socio-cultural perceptions of disease and health, while negotiating their relationships to a body that flows between the individual and the collective, the intimate and the public, the bodily and the textual. The corpus represents three main areas in Renaissance medicine: anatomy, plague treatises and a group of texts labeled as regimina sanitatis or health guides. The first chapter constitutes a reflection on the tensions and negotiations between theoretical knowledge, on the one hand, and practice and its visual focus on the other, as competing pedagogical tools in the Renaissance. It examines the rhetoric of anatomical manuals and the ways in which it contributes to the legitimation of anatomy, "sanitizing" discourse by erasing the clues of dissection, and constructing the anatomist's authority and identity in a time in which dissection was still a suspicious practice. The second chapter explores treatises on plague and the process of social construction of illness through an authoritative description that incorporates biblical and military discourse and that is endowed of healing symbolic power. The third chapter concentrates on health guides - works deeply rooted in the traditions of the medieval regimina principis and the classical symposiac literature - and how control of bodily appetites becomes a reflection on models of political government, and a meta-literary commentary on the representation of classical medical knowledge. A final chapter, as conclusion, studies the re appropriation of medical discourse by other disciplines and for other purposes that lie beyond the description of the body and that include the production of political models.

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