Of Wombs and Words: Migrating Misogynies in Early Modern Medical Literature in Latin and Hebrew

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Abstract

In the decades surrounding the end of the seventeenth century, new ideas about women’s bodies migrated from Latin medical texts to Hebrew ones. This article follows the journey of one particular idea, that there exists a unique kind of feminine madness, termed furor uterinus in Latin, which originates in the womb, and expresses itself in excessive sexual desire and uncontrollable speech. The article offers a comparative reading of Hebrew depictions of furor uterinus, locating them within their wider cultural context. It reveals the dynamic ways in which early modern Hebrew authors actively participated in contemporary scientific discussions, importing them back into the Jewish community. The intense (albeit often unacknowledged) dialogue which took place between Hebrew medical texts and their source texts offers a valuable lesson on forms of cultural transfer, authorship, and translation, as well as on competing notions of feminine sickness and sexuality in early modern Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-269
Number of pages27
JournalAJS Review
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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