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Pathologies of Love. Medicine and the Woman Question in Early Modern France

Judy Kem

KEM Judy, Pathologies of Love. Medicine and the Woman Question in Early Modern France, University of Nebraska Press, 2019.
ISBN : 978-1-4962-1520-8

Pathologies of Love examines the role of medicine in the debate on women, known as the querelle des femmes, in early modern France. Questions concerning women’s physical makeup and its psychological and moral consequences played an integral role in the querelle. This debate on the status of women and their role in society began in the fifteenth century and continued through the sixteenth and, as many critics would say, well beyond. In querelle works early modern medicine, women’s sexual difference, literary reception, and gendered language often merge. Literary authors perpetuated medical ideas such as the notion of allegedly fatal lovesickness, and physicians published works that included disquisitions on the moral nature of women.

In Pathologies of Love, Judy Kem looks at the writings of Christine de Pizan, Jean Molinet, Symphorien Champier, Jean Lemaire de Belges, and Marguerite de Navarre, examining the role of received medical ideas in the querelle des femmes. She reconstructs how these authors interpreted the traditional courtly understanding of women’s pity or mercy on a dying lover, their understanding of contemporary debates about women’s supposed sexual insatiability and its biological effects on men’s lives and fertility, and how erotomania or erotic melancholy was understood as a fatal illness. While the two women who frame this study defended women and based much of what they wrote on personal experience, the three men appealed to male authority and tradition in their writings.

Table des matières

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction : Early Modern Medicine and the Querelle des Femmes
1. Love or Seduction ? Christine de Pizan’s Legacy from the Querelle de la Rose to the Querelle des Femmes
2. From Physical to Spiritual Love : Molinet’s Romant de la rose moralisé (1500) and the Querelle des Femmes
3. Platonic Love, Marriage, and Infertility in Symphorien Champier’s Nef des princes (1502) and Nef des dames (1503)
4. Love and Death in Lemaire’s Couronne Margaritique and the Trois contes de Cupido et d’Atropos : Excessive Grief and the Great Pox
5. Fatal Lovesickness in Marguerite de Navarre’s Quatre dames et quatre gentilzhommes and the Heptaméron
Conclusion : From Courtly Love to Fatal Lovesickness
Appendix 1 : Works in the Querelle de la Rose and the Querelle des Femmes (1240–1673)
Appendix 2 : Major Early Modern Medical Authorities, Translators, and Commentators

Judy Kem is a professor of French at Wake Forest University. She is editor or author of three books in French studies.