Fictions of Well-Being

9780812242553: Hardback
Release Date: 8th July 2010

7 illus.

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 200

University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

Fictions of Well-Being

Sickly Readers and Vernacular Medical Writing in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain

In late medieval and early modern Spain, physicians began to translate and refashion medical information for lay readers. This book explores the concept of the sickly reader, a highly motivated individual whom medical writers encouraged to seek out useful remedies and efficacious hygienic practices in various vernacular health guides.

Hardback / £52.00

From the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries in Spain, health-related information in the vernacular began to circulate widely in treatises, compendiums, manuals, plague tracts, summaries, encyclopedias, and recipe collections. These were often the work of concerned physicians who attempted to refashion medical information to appeal to nonprofessionals. In Fictions of Well-Being Michael Solomon explores the shaping of this audience of sickly readers, highly motivated individuals who, when confronted with the painful, disruptive, and often alienating conditions of physical disorder, looked for relief in books.

Vernacular medical writing from late medieval and early modern Spain emerged from the interrelated imperatives to address the immediate or future hygienic and pathological needs of the patient while promoting the reputation and learned credentials of the physician. For sickly readers, a medical treatise was more than just a collection of technical information; such a work implied that they could do with a medical text what the physician normally did at the bedside. In their imagination, the treatise became a type of palpable instrument that encouraged the reader to take advantage of its possible use and benefits. In these fictions of well-being, we may see the antecedents of the self-help and popular medical books so prominent on today's best-seller lists.

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Physicians, Sickly Readers, and Vernacular Medical Writing
Chapter One. Fictions of Utility
Chapter Two. Fictions of the Physician
Chapter Three. Fictions and Pharmaceuticals
Conclusion. Fictions of Ill-Being


Michael Solomon is Associate Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania and the editor of the journal Hispanic Review, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

"Fictions of Well-Being expands our knowledge of Spanish medical literature in the crucial years between 1300 and 1650, and it offers refreshing insights into the history of medicine in general. Solomon's unifying theme is the instrumentality of the word or, more specifically, the medicinal effect of vernacular texts and books, as objects, on the reader's imagination and health. As a result, this book illuminates the relationship between academic and popular medicine and between the written word and the patient's perception."—Luke E. Demaitre, University of Virginia