Medieval Medicine & Paleography Syllabus

Medieval Medicine and Paleography

HIST 393–03, 5 credits

Seattle University, Spring 2013

This course is both an introduction to the history of medicine and a course in medieval paleography, the study of ancient handwriting. It is a team-taught class with Professor Earenfight joined for the last five weeks by Professor Monica Green, whose scholarly expertise in medieval women’s medicine.

The first five weeks will be spent acquiring the necessary background in the history of medicine to provide the necessary context for the manuscripts and an introduction to Latin paleography. The second five weeks will focus on two archival manuscripts that take up the question of maternity, fertility, and infertility among noble and royal woman using one untranscribed archival Latin manuscript from the fifteenth century (available in digitized form).

Knowledge Goals

  1. First, we will focus on the history of medicine in medieval Europe, particularly the origins of medical knowledge and practice from the ancient Greek and Roman traditions.
  2. Then, we will narrow the focus to examine women’s medicine in the Middle Ages using a key text, the Trotula, as the foundation. We will read recent work on women’s medicine, particularly gynecology and childbirth, paying particular attention to the later Middle Ages.
  3. Finally, we will use this foundational knowledge as we transcribe and translate one text from the late fifteenth century that considers the medical problems of infertility and maternal health.

Skills Goals

  1. We will start with context, which is the social, political, economic, and religious framework of historical events and processes that inform our reading of the primary sources.
  2. We will then perform a close textual reading of primary source, the Trotula, in Latin which we will compare alongside an accompanying English translation. This will prepare us for working with the untranscribed Latin text. We will also study some of the various forms of medieval handwriting as an introduction to the untranscribed text we will work with in the last five weeks of class.
  3. Then we will turn our attention to the Latin texts themselves, using the contextual material to inform an understanding of the texts, the paleography to be able to read and transcribe the texts, and the Latin to be able to translate the texts.

Course Requirements:

Class participation: 20%

Participation is not just saying something, it is saying something interesting, insightful, important. It is engaging in conversation, not just answering questions—it is not being afraid to disagree, debate, take a controversial stance, or play the devil’s advocate. Be prepared to jump into the fray. If you are shy, or tend to hold back from discussion, one way to overcome it is to prepare at least three discussion-starter questions for each class. Try to ask them during class, but by all means hand them in to me after class and I’ll count it toward your discussion grade.

Here’s what I expect of you each time we meet in class:

  • to have read the material before class and be able to summarize the material,
  • to pose at least three thesis-seeking questions to propel the conversation, and
  • when we work with original Latin texts, to prepare transcriptions and translations.

The need for regular attendance is, therefore, self-evident, as is the need to inform me in advance when you know you will be absent. In the event of an illness or an emergency, your absence will be excused, but any unexcused absence will result in a zero grade for class participation for that day. Finally, I expect you to respect your peers in the classroom and I will not tolerate behavior that disrupts our work. So, just as you will get high marks for being a valuable discussant, your grade will suffer if you are disruptive in any way—verbally or physically.

How do I grade this component of the course? 

  • Showing up and staying awake = a passing (just barely) grade.
  • The above, plus having read the material and being able to answer fundamental questions on the readings (such as content, the author’s thesis, the general context, situating the thesis in a larger theoretical context) = C-/D.
  • The above, plus being able to pose interesting and provocative questions regularly in the discussion on the material = C/C+.
  • All of the above and be able to debate, discuss, contest, and challenge the material regularly in classroom discussions = B-/B/B+. 
  • All of the above plus you are able to formulate your own ideas on the writing and interpretations of history = A/A-

Discussion Leader:  10%

In addition to the day-to-day demands of class participation, each of you will be responsible for taking the lead in the class discussion twice in the term, once when we take up the Trotula text and once with the archival texts. Your discussion must include the following:

  • outline overview of the main points in the reading
  • at least 3 thesis-seeking questions for discussion
  • problems of translation of the Latin into English: pay close attention to alternative interpretations of the text
  • a handout that includes
    • a glossary of key terms in the text
    • a short bibliography (6–10 items) of secondary sources pertinent to issues raised by the text

Two exams: 30%.

Two essay/short answer exams on April 15 and May 6 will test your knowledge of the material covered up to the preceding class.

Final Paper: 40%

This 10–12 page (between 2,500 and 3,000 words) paper will contain the following elements:

  • first, a formal discussion of the codicology and paleography (10% of the paper grade),
  • second, an accurate formal description of the passage or passages from one of the Latin manuscripts, a formal Latin transcription, and a translation (20% of the paper grade),
  • third, an analytical interpretation of that material with context from secondary sources (60% of the paper grade), and
  • finally, proper format and proofreading/editing ª10% of the final paper grade).

Some formalities for writing the paper:

  • YOU MUST submit your work to me as a Word document (the file extension must be either .doc or .docx) as an email attachment or in the dropbox on Angel. Only papers formatted as a Word file will be accepted. If you do not have Word, go to the OIT Help Desk and sign up for vLab.
  • All papers must be double-spaced, 12-point font (no fancy fonts, please), 1” margins on all sides (you may have to reset the margins from the default setting).
  • Use headers that note your name and the page numbers in upper right corner.
  • Do not justify right and left margins; left justified only (as I have done in this syllabus).
  • Provide a descriptive title.
  • Follow Chicago Manual of Style throughout, including endnotes and a works cited list. The CMS is available online through the Lemieux Library catalog. For a quick overview that should answer any general questions, see this website from Purdue University,
  • I am perfectly fine if you choose to use “I” in your paper when you make your argument (as in “I argue this or that.”). In fact, I prefer that you use “I.” This paper is about your ideas, and by using the “I,” you own them.
  • On page one, in the upper left hand corner, give your name, the course name, my name, and the date. It must be single-spaced, flush left.

Books (Required):

  • Green, Monica H. The Trotula: A Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).
  • Clemens, Raymond and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007).
  • The side-by-side Latin text and English translation of The Trotula is available as a PDF [Angel]

Articles and Book Chapters (PDF on Angel):

Montserrat Cabré, “From a Master to a Laywoman: A Feminine Manual of Self-Help,”Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam 20 (2000), 371–93.

Monica H. Green, “From ‘Diseases of Women’ to ‘Secrets of Women’: The Transformation of Gynecological Literature in the Later Middle Ages,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30:1 (Winter 2000): 5–39.

———, “The Possibilities of Literacy and the Limits of Reading: Women and the Gendering of Medical Literacy,” in Women’s Healthcare in the Medieval West (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), Essay VII.

———, “Reconstructing the Oeuvre of Trota of Salerno,” in La Scuola medica Salernitana: Gli autori e i testi, ed. Danielle Jacquart and Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Edizione Nazionale ‘La Scuola medica Salernitana’, 1 (Florence:  SISMEL/Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2007), 183–233.

Monica H. Green and Daniel Lord Smail, “The Trial of Floreta d’Ays (1403): Jews, Christians, and Obstetrics in Later Medieval Marseille,” Journal of Medieval History 34, no. 2 (June 2008), 185–211.

Sharon L. Jansen, Anne of France: Lessons for my Daughter (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2008), 1–8.

Elizabeth L’Estrange, Holy Motherhood: Gender, Dynasty and Visual Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), ch. 2, “De conception ad partum: saints, treatises, and prayers for successful childbirth,” 44–76.

Iona McCleery, “‘Multos ex medicinae arte curaverat, multos verbo et oratione’: Curing in Medieval Portuguese Saints’ Lives,” Studies in Church History, 41 (2005): 192–202.

Katharine Park, “Medicine and Society in Medieval Europe,” in A. Wear (ed.), Medicine in Society: Historical Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 59–90.

Faith Wallis (ed,), Medieval Medicine: A Reader (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010).

Elena Woodacre, “The She-Wolves of Navarre,” 62:6 (June 2012): 47–51.

Manuscripts (available as PDF):

  • Pierre Andrieu, Pomum aureum: Paris, BNF, MS lat. 6992, s. xv med., ff. 79r–90v
  • Bernard Chaussade, Tractatus de conceptione et generatione praecipue filiorum: Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, MS lat. 7064, an. 1488 (France), ff. 1r-82r.

Additional Bibliography [On reserve in Lemieux, PDF on Angel, or available online]

Anonymous, “The Book of Albertus on the Secrets of Women” (a Dutch Trotula excerpt), in Orlanda Lie, “What Every Midwife Needs to Know: The Trotula, translation Flanders, second half of the fifteenth century,” in Women’s Writing in the Low Countries 1200-1875. A Bilingual Anthology, ed. L. van Gemert et al. (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010), pp. 138-43.

Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, “Le dernier enfant:  fécondité et vieillissement chez les Florentines XIVe-XVe siècles,” in Mesurer et comprendre:  Mélanges offerts à Jacques Dupaquier, ed. Jean-Pierre Barder, François Lebrun, and René Le Mée (Paris:  Presses Universitaires de France, 1993), pp. 277-90.

Ann Crabb, “Ne pas être mère: l’autodéfense d’une Florentine vers 1400,” Clio:  Histoire, femmes, et societies 21 (2005), special issue on Maternités, online edition posted 1 June 2007,

Monica H. Green, “Bibliography on Medieval Women, Gender and Medicine, 1980-2009,” an 82-page annotated bibliography of over 375 items of European and North American scholarship, posted for free access on,, posted 02 March 2010

———, “Integrative Medicine: Incorporating Medicine and Health into the Canon of Medieval European History,” History Compass 7:4 (June 2009): 1218–45.

———, Making Women’s Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynaecology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

———,  “Trota of Salerno (and the Trotula),” Dictionary of Medical Biography, ed. William F. Bynum and Helen Bynum, 5 vols. (Westport, CT:  Greenwood, 2006), vol. 5, pp. 1235-1237.

———, “Trota of Salerno,” in Women and Gender in Medieval Europe:  An Encyclopedia, ed. Margaret Schaus (New York:  Routledge, 2006), pp. 800–801.

———, “In Search of an ‘Authentic’ Women’s Medicine:  The Strange Fates of Trota of Salerno and Hildegard of Bingen,” Dynamis:  Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam 19 (1999), 25–54.

———, Making Women’s Medicine Masculine:  The Rise of Male Authority in Premodern Gynaecology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2008), esp. chapter 1.

Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1999).

Katherine Park, Women’s Secrets: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (New York: Zone Books, 2006).


A Caveat

The assignments may change throughout the quarter, but I will never change them without giving you fair warning.

Class Policies

Electronic Devices: The use of laptops, netbooks, or PDAs in class to take classnotes, view visual materials, or work on class projects is allowed and encouraged. However, the use of laptops, netbooks or PDAs (cellphones, handhelds) in class for any other non-class related activity (including instant messaging, texts, web-browsing) is prohibited without my specific prior approval.

Audio and videotaping: For protection of proprietary knowledge, privacy, and for a variety of other reasons, audio and videotaping of any class session is strictly prohibited without my prior approval. Such approval will be granted on a case-by-case basis and you will be responsible for making all necessary arrangements and will need to adhere to the appropriate agreed upon use of the content material of these audio tapes.

Academic Honesty Policy:

Seattle University is committed to the principle that academic honesty and integrity are important values in the educational process. Academic dishonesty in any form is a serious offense against the academic community. Acts of academic dishonesty will be addressed according to the Seattle University Academic Honesty Policy. If you are not sure whether a particular action is acceptable according to the Academic Honesty Policy, you should check with your instructor before engaging in it. The policy can be found at


Students with a Disability:

If you have, or think you may have, a disability (including an ‘invisible disability’ such as a learning disability, a chronic health problem, or a mental health condition) that interferes with your performance as a student in this class, you are encouraged to arrange support services and/or accommodations through Disabilities Services staff in the Learning Center, Loyola 100, (206) 296-5740. Disability-based adjustments to course expectations can be arranged only through this process.


Dr. Earenfight’s Paper Pet Peeves (in no particular order of disgust)

Prose written in a college course is formal prose. I value precise, clearly and concisely written papers. That said, I am not averse to the use of the first-person singular subject (as in “I contend that . . .”). Use of any of the following prose pet peeves, however, are guaranteed to set my nerves on edge and drive me perilously close to the desire for crucifixion, which has serious implications for your grade. This list is not complete, so stay alert to new additions to the list during the quarter.

General annoyances that make me grab my red pen include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Gendered language. Use of “him” when a male or female subject is not clearly stated is a fatal error.
  2. Limited vocabulary. Get a dictionary. Use it. Often.
  3. Imprecise usage. For example, do not use “huge,” “great,” and “big” when not referring to size, dimension, or volume. If the person was important, high-ranking, or a mover-and-shaker, say so, and reserve “huge” for someone physically enormous not famous. Likewise, the overuse of “multiple.” Use that only when you can enumerate quantity (which happens rarely); otherwise, use “many” (Many people in the Middle Ages drank beer).
  4.  “Interesting” appearing anywhere in a paper. This is a weak word. Find a better one.
  5.  “Lifestyle” when you mean “way of life.” The word lifestyle implies a choice, as in “An American college student’s lifestyle in 2012 necessitates the possession of an iPad.”
  6. “Literally” used when you mean “not really,” as in “My head literally exploded when I heard the new CD by Hot New Band.”
  7. “Ironic” or “scare” quotes. These are sarcastic, not ironic. They are the annoying “air quotes” that people derisively use. Say what you mean and don’t be cute.
  8. Britishisms such as “whilst,” “amongst,” “amidst,” and “oftentimes” or British spelling (favourite, colour, theatre). Please, this is the U. S. A. Use among, amid, often, favorite, color, theater.
  9. Clunky phrases such as “medieval times” and “medieval ages.” The correct phrasing is the “Middle Ages” and the “medieval period (or era).”
  10. Colloquialisms such as “awesome,” “amazing,” and “cool.”
  11. Opinions (“I don’t like Cromwell”) instead of interpretation. History is not fashion or food.
  12. Using the term “class” when discussing pre-modern societies. “Class” is anachronistic because it implies a modern economy with some capitalist or Marxist elements. The correct terms are “status” or “rank” or “hierarchy.”
  13. “Like” used indiscriminately, as in “I believe, like . . .” or “Like in the case of . . .” Consider “as” or “such as” instead.
  14.  “Etc.” and “i. e.” in a sentence in the body of the text. Finish the thought or say “for example,” but do not run on and on with abbreviations. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in footnotes.
  15. Using the weak verb “doing” when what you mean is “writing,” “analyzing,” “making,” or “thinking.”
  16. Using “since” when you mean “because.” Since suggests a temporal condition.
  17. “Impact” used as a verb. I know this common usage and I will have to get used to it, but it really drives me crazy. To me, it sounds wrong and since this is my style sheet, use “affect.”





Date Discussion Topics Assignments Due
M, 4/1 Introduction: The History of Medicine in the Middle Ages & Modern Ideas toward Fertility
W, 4/3 Healers & Healing in the Ancient & Medieval World

  • Wallis, Medieval Medicine: Ancient Medicine
  • Wallis, Medieval Medicine: Saints as Healers
M, 4/8 Medieval Medicine & Women’s Medicine

  • Wallis, Medieval Medicine: Medicine in the Late Middle Ages
  • Park, “Medicine and Society in Medieval Europe”
W, 4/10 Codicology: The Trotula

  • Trotula, pp. 3–51
  • Clemens & Graham, Manuscript Studies, chs 1 & 2
M, 4/15 Reading Medieval Manuscripts: The Trotula

  • Trotula, pp. 51–67 [PDF]
  • Clemens & Graham, Manuscript Studies, ch. 3, 4, 5
  • Skype with Professor Green
  • Exam #1: covers all material read/discussed 3–10 April
W, 4/17 The Trotula

  • Trotula, 70–93 [PDF] and pp. 193–204 [PDF]
  • Cabré, “From a Master to a Laywoman”
  • Green, “Reconstructing the Oeuvre of Trota of Salerno”
  • Discussion Leaders: Kathleen & Matthew
M, 4/22 The Trotula (continued)

  • Trotula, 94–115 [PDF]
  • Green and Smail, “The Trial of Floreta d’Ays”
  • Discussion Leaders: Kevin & Katherine
W, 4/24 The Trotula (continued)

  • Trotula, 116–65 [PDF]
  • Discussion Leaders: Emma & Eric


M, 4/29 The Trotula (continued)

  • Trotula, 166–91 [PDF]
  • Discussion Leaders: Michael, Patricia & Sierra
W, 5/1 Medieval Manuscripts

  • Green, “From ‘Diseases of Women’”
  • Clemens and Graham, Manuscript Studies, chs 6–8
M, 5/6 Medieval Manuscripts

  • Clemens and Graham, Manuscript Studies, chs 9 & 10
  • Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum [Green’s notes on Pomum, PDF]
  • Exam #2: covers all material read/discussed 15 April to 1 May
W, 5/8 Queens, Maternity, and “Infertility”

  • L’Estrange, “De conceptione ad partum
  • McCleery, “‘Multos ex medicinae”
  • Context: Jansen, Anne of France, pp. 1–8
  • Context: Woodacre, “The She-Wolves of Navarre”
M, 5/13 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Monica Green joins us
W, 5/15 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Theorica: Capitulum primum quomodo formetur puer in vtero.
M, 5/20 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Theorica: Capitulum 2m que est causa quare aliqui plus masculos aliqui plus femellas generent & Capitulum 3m que est causa assolcioribus? fetus parentibus aut extraneis.
  • Discussion Leaders: Emma & Matthew
W, 5/22 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Theorica: Capitulum 4m que sint signa impregnationis et que masculorum & que femellarum.
  • Discussion Leaders: Katherine & Sierra
M, 5/27 Memorial Day—No class


W, 5/29 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Practica: Capitulum primum quot sint abortus et qualiter regenda sit pregnans ne aborciat  & Capitulum 2m quot modis possit mulier parire & quit obstetrices in talibus debent facere et qualiter mulier sit gubernanda pro facilitate partus vsque ad ortum fetus.
  • Transcription & Translation Due
  • Discussion Leaders: Kathleen & Eric
M, 6/3 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Practica: Capitulum 3o qualiter est regenda post partum puerpera seu enixa.
Discussion Leaders: Michael & Dylan
W, 6/5 Pierre Andrieu, Pomum Aureum

  • Practica: Capitulum 4m et vltimum qualiter sit regendus puer a natiuitate vsque ad etatem dencium plantatinam.
Discussion Leaders: Patricia & Kevin
M, 6/10 Wrap-up Paper Due

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