By Nathalie L. Ettzevoglou
Paper given at the Carolina Conference on Romance Literatures, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2009)
Abstract: While reading Medieval texts, we often times discover special concoctions made of various ingredients in order to cure certain diseases and illnesses. Today, the empirical model is central to our understanding of medicine as a discipline. We are thus likely to dismiss the medical and magical practices of the 12th century due to cultural and scientific bias. The people of the 12th through the 15th centuries, however, believed in the potential of magical potions, which according to their own accounts actually lessened their pain and suffering. Indeed, French medieval texts assigned a major functional role to so-called medicinal substances to treat and/or cure certain diseases and illnesses. We find this illustrated in Arthurian texts, especially in Chrétien de Troyes’ Cligès. Thessala has special powers thanks to her knowledge in science as well as magic. This paper will expose the medical Zeitgeist through specific examples in which we shall see in what measure medicine finds its echo in literature.