Title Background

<i>Words Stones, Stones, and Herbs: The Healing Word in Medieval and Early Modern England</i>

Words Stones, Stones, and Herbs: The Healing Word in Medieval and Early Modern England

This book deals with a constellation of issues, including ideas about the physical effects of words and reading, and the explosion in fourteenth century England of medical texts written in vernacular English, rather than in Latin. Its discussion of PPl argues that Dame Study’s condemnation of the sciences of Astronomy, Geometry, Geomancy, and Alchemy (B.10.209–17) devolves to books and reading, catching the reading subject between the ‘sovereyn’ (healthful) and sorcery. In this way L links reading’s material effects to the long history of the ‘subtle materiality of “medicinal” rhetoric apparent in the deep literary history of catharsis, pharmakon, and medicina’ (p. 107). The book begins with an exploration of that ‘deep literary history’. Moreover, Study’s warning ‘bring[s] to the poem’s readers the dangers inherent in their own vernacular reading, itself a kind of alchemical science’ (p. 107). A matrix of medical metaphors that L has set up in the poem, beginning with Holy Church’s advice to Will that ‘measure is medicine’ (B.1.35) and often put in the mouths of feminine figures, affects the Four Daughters of God allegory as dramatic culmination of the poem. The homeopathic metaphor of ‘like curing like’ implies that reading can provide its own cure, even in the charged atmosphere of late-medieval vernacular English reading. (LB)


Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007


Bishop, Louise