The Iconology of Suffering: Providing a Locus of Control for the Victim in Early Modern Italy
The focus of my thesis is on the diseased body in early modern Italy. The population of Europe was decimated by plague epidemics, especially during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries. Epidemics were considered to be a punishment from God for the sins of a society who failed to follow proscribed religious teachings. This notion was compounded by the lack of scientific knowledge regarding the etiology and appropriate treatment for this disease, as well as for a more modern disease: HIV/AIDS. The plague-afflicted were stigmatized by their diseased body and humiliated through the implementation of extreme public health measures designed, erroneously, to contain and halt the spread of the disease. The victim was ostracized from society and abandoned by family, religious and medical communities. Especially during catastrophic times, people prayed to saints: prayers were said to stave off disease or to affect a miraculous cure. The beholder entered into a visual relationship with the image of the saint and the saint acted as an intercessor. While scholars agree that the sense of sight was privileged over others, I argue that for some plague-afflicted individuals, tactile sensation was more important and efficacious than sight. The plague-afflicted victim was stripped of dignity and control over his body; the corporeal application of a saintly image provided the victim with a locus of control and served as the motivating factor to regain control of his life, to be able to die a good death, and perhaps, to affect a miraculous cure.
School:Bowling Green State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:diseased body hiv aids foucalt plague miracle stories
Date of Publication:05/02/2009