Theresa Tyers is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing at Swansea University, having completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham. She has published several articles on medieval vernacular healthcare manuals.
‘Trotule (Trotula) puts many things on to decorate and embellish the face but I intend solely to remove infection’: L’abbé Poutrel and his Chirurgerie c.1300
This chapter examines a work produced c.1300 referred to by its translator, Jean de Prouville, as a Ciurge or Chirurgie: ‘A Book of Medicine’. Its contents are based on an earlier Latin surgical work by an Italian writer but it is known to have undergone numerous changes in the course of its transmission. At one point in the text Jean de Prouville’s vernacular version claims that its aim is, unlike the well-known Trotule, only to treat infection and not to embellish. Nevertheless, there are signs that the advice given does more than that and, in doing so, this work authorises its own forms of disfigurement intended to achieve the goal of acquiring a perfect complexion. The present study aims to demonstrate the importance of vernacular medical texts for the circulation of didactical material and the ways in which these texts provided instant, easily accessible surgical advice for their owners. It first discusses the source of this vernacular text and explores a number of the problems that are encountered when dealing with medieval vernacular medical texts. It briefly outlines why their owners sought out texts such as these. In particular, it considers what the treatments, which claim to treat disease rather than embellish, reveal about the author’s understanding of medical practice. The present article uses this vernacular manuscript to explore how medical knowledge was disseminated at the threshold of the early fourteenth century and how owning a text such as this authorises a form of disfigurement in the search for a perfect complexion.
Keywords: medieval; France; vernacular medicine; women; knowledge transfer; disease
Appearing in Approaches to Facial Difference: Past and Present (Bloomsbury: 2018). While you wait, check out other medieval material on our blog.