Technologies of authority in the medical classroom in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

Technologies of authority in the medical classroom in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

Salmon, Fernando

Dynamis : Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque. Historiam Illustrandam, Vol.20 (2000)


By 1300, university medical masters were introducing their students to a culturally distinctive reality. This reality was based on the twin pillars sustaining institutional medical knowledge: authority and a logical apparatus based on Aristotelian principles. Traditionally, attention has been paid to the relationship of the medical author with his classical authorities. This paper analyzes the strategies developed by the university medical master for establishing himself as an authority, which entailed treating his contemporaries as authorities as well. It is suggested that a tendency can be traced in the medical classroom from the 1340s onwards to turn attention away from the classical authors towards contemporary writers. 

The topic I would like to discuss is a development of my research on the construction of authority in medieval medical teaching. In previous works I have explored the relationship of the medieval author —the medical master at the developing Studia of late thirteenth century— with the classical authorities in medical teaching. I have stressed the author-authority relationship as one of submission and control; acknowledged respect for the authorities of the past and dependence on the surviving texts, on the one hand, and on the other, a well developed strategy —making full use of the possibilities of the commentary technique—to give those authorities a voice that unequivocally has a strong medieval accent. Thus, my aim has been to underline the role of the medical master as an active mediator with the power of granting or denying authority to the classical author

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