CEMS: Online Symposium on Scholarly Virtues and Vices

Wednesday 29th September 2021

Cultures of Learning in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

CEMS, Limerick Online Series

1. Scholarly Virtues and Vices

Wednesday, 29th September, 12-14.  Online.

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/scholarly-virtues-and-vices-tickets-168728813423


• Karen Hollewand (Utrecht University): Sex, scholars, and the female body in the Dutch Republic

• Sari Kivistö (Tampere University): On the patience of the physicians

• Hannah Skoda (St John’s College, Oxford): Virtues as vices, vices as virtues


Karen Hollewand (Utrecht University)

Sex, scholars, and the female body in the Dutch Republic

In his Generative Organs of Women (Leiden 1672) anatomist Reinier de Graaf criticized his colleagues, past and present, for making huge mistakes with regards to their understanding of the female body. In his chapter titled Concerning the Clitoris, for example, De Graaf stated that it greatly surprised him that some anatomists had ignored this body part, since he had easily identified it in every female cadaver he dissected. Sex was a popular subject of scholarship in the early modern period. The so-called ‘secrets of women’ were of particular interest: scholars disagreed on the precise form and function of the female sexual organs as well as their role in reproduction. After introducing a number of Dutch scholars and their studies, this paper will concentrate on the historical context of their scholarship. While some contemporaries were of the opinion that to gain more knowledge about sex was a virtuous endeavour, others disagreed and regarded the topic as inherently vicious. Paying attention to the cultural values that influenced (the reception of) learned perspectives on the female body, this paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the way in which cultural settings shaped early modern scholarship.

Sari Kivistö (Tampere University)

On the patience of the physicians

Patience as a time-sensitive response to hardship is not merely passive waiting but a teleological emotion focusing on future. It is also an intersubjective emotion affected and modified by social and cultural environments. This paper first creates a (very) brief overview of impatience as a scholarly vice at early modern universities and then discusses the physicians’ patience towards their patients in some early eighteenth-century medical works. The patience of the physicians was manifested in different situations related to the quality of the diseases, patient behaviour, and the actions of relatives surrounding the medical staff. The paper will elucidate the virtue of patience in doctor-patient relationship and ask how the time-sensitive emotion of patience was thought to be conducive to the improvement of good medical practice.

Hannah Skoda (St John’s College, Oxford)

Virtues as vices, vices as virtues

Medieval students were alternately characterized as violent, drunken and lecherous, or so wrapped up in their studies as to be other-worldly. Many students chose to challenge these judgements and to fashion identities which corresponded to their own, more complex, aspirations. Sometimes this took the form of outright denial of allegations, but more interestingly, often students would refashion vices as virtues and vice-versa. This paper will explore some of these sometimes sophisticated, sometimes playful strategies. Various case studies from late medieval Oxford and Paris will be cited to show how denigrations of vice could be refashioned as virtues, shedding light on the complexity of moral frameworks, peer pressures, and fashioned identities within universities. Students were also acutely aware of their audiences in these performances – parents needed to be convinced of decent behaviour, university authorities were to be challenged, peers needed to be impressed. Sources will range from student letters, to disciplinary cases, to poems and parodic sermons.

Dr Richard Kirwan Director, Centre for Early Modern Studies, Limerick

Email: richard.kirwan@ul.ie

Web: https://www.ul.ie/research/dr-richard-kirwan