Marvels of Medicine

BookMarvels of Medicine

Marvels of Medicine

Literature and Scientific Enquiry in Early Colonial Spanish America

Liverpool Latin American Studies, 21


October 22nd, 2020

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Marvels of Medicine makes a compelling case for including sixteenth century medical and surgical writing in the critical frameworks we now use to think about a genealogy of cultural expression in Latin America. Focusing on a small group of practitioners who differed in their levels of training, but who shared the common experience of having left Spain to join colonial societies in the making, this book analyses the paths their texts charted to attitudes and political positions that would come to characterize a criollo mode of enunciation. Unlike the accounts of first explorers, which sought to amaze audiences back in Europe with descriptions of strange and astonishing lands, these texts instead engaged the marvellous in an effort to supersede it, stressing the value of sensorial experience and of verifying information through repetition and demonstration. Vernacular medical writing became an unlikely early platform for a new form of regionally anchored discourse that demanded participation in a global intellectual conversation, yet found itself increasingly relegated to the margins. In responding to that challenge, anatomical treatises, natural histories and surgical manuals exceeded the bounds set by earlier templates becoming rich, hybrid narratives that were as concerned with science as with portraying the lives and sensibilities of women and men in early colonial Mexico.

“This book is highly original, combining very well the approaches, methods and techniques of two disciplines that usually have very different work agendas: the history of medicine and the history of literature.”
María Luz López-Terrada, INGENIO [CSIC-UPV]

‘Pérez Marín’s important new work is sure to generate future research on topics like these in literary studies of medicine.’
Allison Bigelow, H-LatAm

'Pérez Marín has introduced these fascinating medical texts as a way of telling a more complete story of colonial Latin America. She closely reads them through the lens of cultural studies and literary analysis, balancing the highly technical information with its delivery in a narrative voice.'
Patricia M. García, Seventeenth-century news

Marvels of Medicine provides a thorough and compelling read towards the histories of Hispanic health disparities and medical experiences, acknowledging the roles of language proficiencies as well as racial and ethnic biases.’
Margaret E. Boyle, Nursing Clio

'Pe´rez Marı´n’s work offers a valuable, rich interdisciplinary analysis of early colonial medical texts and their authors. The author’s literary and historical contextualization of political, scientific, and cultural discourses that determined the fate of these men and their work is thorough and engaging. This book will be especially useful for scholars interested in viceregal medicine and circulation of knowledge.'
Aimee Da´vila Hisey, Hispanic American Historical Review

'Marvels of Medicine is a valuable addition to the field [of interdisciplinary study] and stands as an example of the intertextual delights available to us when we bring these skillsets to our reading of early medical writing. [...] The strength of this book lies in its engagement with the literary connections between the various works, highlighting how these individuals were not only authors and medical practitioners, but readers crafting their thoughts in relation to and over-against each other's publications and changing perceptions of Latin America, nature, climate and the human body in the late sixteenth century. [...] Marvels of Medicine offers a very interesting prism through which to engage with medical, social and literary thought in early modern scholarship and creates scope for similar intertextual analysis in this and later periods of medical writing.'Michael Vargas, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

Author Information

Yarí Pérez Marín is Associate Professor in Hispanic Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures7
1 The surgeon’s secrets: The medical travel narrative of Pedro Arias de Benavides33
2 Irreconcilable differences? Anatomy, physiology and the New World body63
3 Weakening the sex: The medicalisation of female gender identity in New Spain101
4 Contested medical knowledge and regional self-fashioning129
Works cited173