Reading and Health in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

full name / name of organization: 
Medieval and Early Modern Research Group, Newcastle University
contact email: 

5th-6th July, 2013

Katharine Craik
Helen Smith
Richard Wistreich

'Also it is seene that the reading of histories doth so hold and allure good wits, that divers times it not only maketh them to forget all other pleasures, but also serveth very fittely to turne away their griefes, and somtimes also to remedie their diseases.'
Thomas North (trans.), 'Amiot to the Readers', in Plutarch, The lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes (1579), sig. *vv.

This symposium will explore how early modern texts engage with the regulation of the body and mind through reading. It will investigate the connections between reading and health and consider how reading was understood as an embodied practice in the period with profound implications for both personal well-being and conception of the healthy body politic.

We invite proposals that address the relationship between health and reading in any genre in print or manuscript in any European language. The genres might include medical, scientific, literary, religious, or pedagogical and rhetorical writings. We encourage proposals that recover diverse readers/hearers, reading communities and practices. We also welcome papers that consider problems of evidence: e.g. manuscript marginalia; print paratexts (and directions to readers); visual representations; non-material evidence (voice; gesture; touch).

Topics might include, but are not restricted to:

• Reading as therapeutic (devotional; recreational etc.)
• Reading medical writing
• The physiology of reading
• Reading and well-being
• Reading and disability
• Health and the senses
• Health as a literary theme
• Reading and the healthy body politic (censorship; free speech; reading communities etc.)

300-word abstracts for 20-minute papers from individuals and panels (3 speakers) to be sent to the symposium organisers – Jennifer Richards ( and Louise Wilson (

The deadline for abstracts is Thursday, January 31st, 2013.

For further information on the symposium, visit: