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Reviews Dangler,Jean. Mediating Fictions: Literature, Women Healers, and the Go-Between in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia. L·wisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8387-5452-X This study ofthe literary representation ofwomen healers focuses on three Iberian texts: Spill o Llibre de les dones by Jaume Roig, La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas, and La Lozana andaluza by Francisco Delicado. Dangler takes as her organizing principle the simultaneous proximity and distance between female medical practitioners and the Virgin Mary that is expressed in the popular palindrome Ave/Eva. Both the woman healer and the Virgin are intercessors, performing a necessary function in a society increasingly concerned with maintaining religious, social, gender and medical hierarchies. But the similarity of the female healer's social function to that of the medianera and her illicit sexual "cures" works against the healer's assimilation to the Virgin. Dangler argues that the increasing professionalization of medicine in the later Middle Ages widened the gap, devaluing the work of a broad array ofwomen healers, the médicas and metgesses, físicas, curanderas, parteras, ensalmadoras, comadronas, conjuratrices, among others. Male writers like Roig, Rojas, and Delicado aided the effort to devalue women's participation in health care by dissuading readers from engaging the services of traditional women healers. Chapter One provides a useful summary of the role of women in medieval medicine, highlighting the work of historians who have recently made women healers and their work more visible. For Iberia (and in particular for Valencia, where the documentation is more abundant) important contributions have been made by Michael Solomon, Luis Garcia-Ballester, Michael McVaugh, and Agustín Rubio Vela, and the author relies heavily on them for the historical background. There follows a brief survey of the diverse works that depict women healers, including Speculum alfoderi, Tractado del uso de las mugeres, Tratado de patología general, the later Libro del arte de las comadres o madrinas, and hagiographical and Marian literature. Although aside from Alfonso X's Cantigas de Santa Maria these works have received little attention from medical or literary historians, they are valuable resources not only for the history of medicine, but also for understanding the mechanisms of social La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 279-82 280ReviewsLa corónica 30.1, 2001 control "since questions of healing, sickness, and well-being in any society are ultimately founded upon issues of power, domination, and social order" (11). Dangler emphasizes throughout this concept of the broader social forces at work behind the exclusion of women from medicine. She considers excessively narrow the prevailing view that the professionalization of medicine is due to a new public enthusiasm for education, and for medical education in particular. In fifteenth-century Iberia at least, the process is also a manifestation of the impulse toward nationalism and its attendant push for cultural homogenization and monarchic/municipal domination of civil life. At the same time, there is a familiar paradox at work in the position of women healers at the time in question. In theory, laws requiring academic training and professional licensing, the rise of hospitals and clinics, and the renewed interest in Greek and Arabic medical treatises worked to disenfranchise women healers, many ofwhom were illiterate. In practice, however, the physical, legal, and educational separation between professional and nonprofessional practitioners was less than solid. The demand for health care was simply too great to enforce such rules. This gap between theory and practice becomes the springboard for Dangler's analysis ofRoig's Spill, Rojas's Celestina, and Delicado's La Lozana andaluza. She argues that because institutional mechanisms to exclude women healers failed, "men authors complicit with the ideology of the newly authorized male physician attempted to undermine the literary models that promoted women healers" (49). Spill offers the most compelling evidence for this kind ofcomplicity. Roig was himself a doctor, and he was also medical examiner for the council of Valencia. He was therefore actively involved in the policing of the medical profession. Furthermore, his fictionalized autobiography is filled with rage against women, including his mother and first wife. The work recounts a pilgrimage undertaken in search of a new wife, but it is more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 279-282
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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