Materia médica

Rareza, singularidad y accidente en la España temprano-moderna

By Elena del Rio Parra

Materia médica

268 pp., 6 x 9, 12 figs, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2617-8
    Published: June 2016

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Distributed for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Romance Studies

Materia médica explores the intersection of the sciences and humanities in Spanish sixteenth and seventeenth century representations of the extraordinary within the larger scheme of the Baroque. Medical and chirurgical treatises, discourses, letters, broadsheets, and paratexts of the period share with the humanities thought processes, methods, patterns, and—most importantly—some forms of description. Archival evidence broadens the spectrum of these texts, and cases are frequently compared to similar instances in disciplines such as theology, literature, and the law.

Materia médica maps, among other notions, the imagination, the spectacular, the legendary and the "novelesque" in scientific writing, and examines the influence of the theatrical in representations of medical cases as stated by doctors themselves. The analyses of Materia médica tilt between the world of fact and fantasy, and explore the effect of the descriptions of its cases on the social sphere. An eclectic monograph, it is intended for specialists in both early-modern culture and intellectual history. It also appeals to scholars who are particularly interested in the history of the rare, the unusual, and the monstrous, a fertile niche that is very much in the spirit of sixteenth and seventeenth century Western thought.

About the Author

Elena de Río Parra is Professor of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Georgia State University.
For more information about Elena del Rio Parra, visit the Author Page.


Materia médica demonstrates that these scientific texts, which are infrequently studied by scholars of the humanities, have deep connections to humanistic narrative techniques. . . . No doubt Río Parra’s work, along with Enrique García Santo-Tomás’ 2014 La musa refractada: literatura y óptica en la España del Barroco, will help bring medical and scientific discourses into the canon of texts analyzed in early modern Spanish historical, cultural and literary studies.”--Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies

Materia médica: Rareza, singularidad y accidente en la España temprano-moderna is an original, rigorous, and elegantly written work; reading it is at once intellectually stimulating and amusing.”--Isis Journal