Baby Blues in the Middle Ages? Childbirth and Mental Distress in Late Medieval Europe


Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, Kislak Center


This location is ADA accessible

Featuring Na’ama Cohen Hanegbi (University of Tel Aviv)

The talk examines incidents of women suffering emotional instability in pregnancy and childbirth appearing in European sources from 1300-1600. The diversity of sources - miracle tales, literary texts, exempla and medical texts – point to a widely shared understanding that these circumstances could incur mental distress. Still, the sources exhibit no guiding singular concept akin to ‘postpartum depression’ or ‘baby blues.’ Analyzing the diversity of reasoning and meanings enveloped in these cases, we can see how ideas about women’s emotionality, women’s bodies and concepts of health were negotiated, and in turn, how they informed rituals and healthcare. 

Naama Cohen-Hanegbi is a senior lecturer of medieval History at Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on medicine as a prism for a cultural history of late medieval southern Europe. Her most recent publications include Caring for the Living Soul: Emotions, Medicine and Penance in the Late Medieval Mediterranean (Brill, 2017); Pleasure in the Middle Ages co-edited with Piroska Nagy (Brepols, 2018); and “Experience: Feeling Unhealthy in the Middle Ages” forthcoming in the medieval volume of Bloomsbury’s series The Cultural History of Medicine. 

Sponsored by
Working Faculty Group in Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies
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