The making and travelling of knowledge : a biography of a medical case history in 19th century Europe
Title: The making and travelling of knowledge : a biography of a medical case history in 19th century Europe
Author: BÖHMER, Maria Dorothee
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2013
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
The thesis introduces a biography of a medical case history published by a Venetian physician in 1806 that reports on a public self-crucifixion attempt: Cesare Ruggieri's Storia della crocifissione di Mattio Lovat da se stesso eseguita. Due to different editions and translations, this case history travelled into a European context and was discussed in various professional and lay discourses in Germany, France, England and Italy throughout the 19th century. The study first investigates the 'making' of the case as well as the writing of the case history in the social, cultural, political and medical context of Venice. Second, by analyzing the specific ways in which the narrative was appropriated, i.e. received, read, commented on, used and transformed by foreign authors, the thesis examines the Europe-wide 'circulation' of the case history. Thereby, it ties in with recent approaches from the fields of the history of science, history of medicine and history of psychiatry and seeks to offer new perspectives on the 'transnational' character of case histories. Although originally addressed to a medical readership in the specific form of a medical case history, Ruggieri's publication appealed to a much wider readership. The thesis reveals that the great potential of the narrative to travel and to arouse public attention and curiosity can be attributed first and foremost to the fact that it combined the medical problem of 'insanity' with a problematization of religious issues. These two topics were of great interest, not only in the context of nascent disciplines in 19th century Europe such as psychiatry in which working with cases was an epistemic method, but also in the realm of literature where casuistic writing was popular. The thesis demonstrates that the ways in which the case history circulated in the four countries depended on distinct national cultures of reception as well as on different media scenes. Despite thematic similarities, the way in which the case history was appropriated in the four national contexts therefore varied remarkably.
LC Subject Heading: Medicine -- History -- 19th century; Psychiatry -- History -- 19th century; Ruggieri, Cesare, 1768-1828
Defence date: 14 June 2013; Examining Board: Professor Antonella Romano (EUI, Supervisor) Professor Lucy Riall (EUI) Professor Gianna Pomata (Johns Hopkins University) Professor Flurin Condrau (Institute and Museum of the History of Medicine, University of Zurich).
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