Dancing with Spiders: Tarantism in Early Modern Europe

Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 58)


In the early modern period learned physicians not only engaged in diagnosing and treating the ailments of the suffering but also evinced strong commitment to explaining how the forces of nature operated within the sick body to produce both diseases and cures. While instruction in natural philosophy and in medicine remained distinctly divided between university faculties, in practice such a division was blurred. Early modern learned physicians commonly felt themselves fully qualified to make theoretical pronouncements about a multitude of natural phenomena which were directly or indirectly observable. Moreover, if these phenomena manifested themselves in diseased human subjects, little deterred the early modern physician from regarding them as within the legitimate bounds of his profession. In this paper I will examine discussions of one peculiar disease, tarantism, to probe the character of early modern medicine.


Case History Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Musical Therapy Medical Text 
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