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Therapeutic Reading in Later Medieval England

Author(s): Daniel McCann

Language: English

Genre(s): Literary Criticism

Series: Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages

October 2018272 pages234x156mm

Hardback - 9781786833310 eBook - epub - 9781786833334 eBook - mobi - 9781786833341 eBook - pdf - 9781786833327

About The Book

Soul-Health explores the connection between reading and healing. The act of reading engages deeply with our emotions and psychology, and this book broadens our understanding of that process by the surprising revelation that feeling bad has been understood as the best thing for mental and spiritual health. The mental and emotional impact of reading expanded in the Middle Ages into a therapeutic tool for improving the health of the soul – a state called salus animae – and focusing on later Medieval England, the present study explores a core set of religious texts that identify themselves as treatments for the soul. These same texts, however, evoke powerfully negative emotions. Soul-Health investigates each of these emotions, offering an analysis of how fear, penance, compassion and longing could work to promote the health of the soul, demonstrating how interest in mental and spiritual health far pre-dates the modern period, and is more complex and balanced than simply trying to achieve joy.


‘The health of the soul preoccupied medieval Christians and their use of medical terms, for it was no metaphor. Daniel McCann shows how pious reading could be therapeutic for the soul, because of the deep emotions it evoked. His book is a major contribution to both medical humanities and medieval literary studies.’
- Professor Peregrine Horden, Professor of Medieval History, University of London

‘This important volume, which explores the concept of therapeutic reading in late medieval English religious culture, demonstrates a deep knowledge of medieval theories about affect, combined with acute sensitivity to the specific ways in which religious writings produce feeling in their recipients.’
- Denis Renevey, Professor of Medieval English Language and Literature, University of Lausanne


Series Editors’ Preface
Note on Editions and Translations
Introduction: Cura Animarum
Apprehensive Medicine
Lyrical Treatment
Compassionate Healing
Longing for Health
Dangerous Reading
Conclusion: Sowle-hele

About the Author(s)

Daniel McCann

Dr Daniel McCann is Departmental Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at Worcester College, Faculty of English, University of Oxford.Daniel McCann is the Simon and June Li Darby Fellow in English Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford.

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