337 Cohen Hall
Meg Leja, Assistant Professor of History, Binghamton University
After Galen, Before Galenism: Medical Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages
Although Galen’s status as an eminent medical authority was well known to intellectuals in early medieval Europe, this period so often labelled the “Dark Ages” lacked access to Latin translations of almost all of Galen’s writings. Few codices of any Latin medical writings survive from before the year 800, but we see a surge in the copying and production of medical manuscripts over the ninth century, within the climate of political and educational reforms carried out by Charlemagne and his successors. Even here, however, the lack of a Galenic theoretical framework has encouraged stereotypes regarding the irrational, unsystematic, and unintelligible nature of early medieval medicine—especially when set against the (roughly contemporaneous) development of Galenism in the Arabic court of Baghdad. This talk reassesses the continued dynamism of Carolingian medicine by highlighting how new experiments in religious thought offered a framework for humoral knowledge that, while it was not centered on Galenic philosophy, nevertheless established a rational basis for practice. It brings the extant medical texts from the ninth century into dialogue with Carolingian literature focused on the care of the soul and thereby suggests a way of reading medical writings as initiatives deeply implicated in the Carolingian pastoral project.