Fools and idiots?

Intellectual disability in the Middle Ages

Author: Irina Metzler

Using an interdisciplinary approach, including historical semantics, medicine, natural philosophy and law, the book considers a neglected field of social and medical history and makes an original contribution to the problem of a shifting concept such as 'idiocy'. The book considers the semantics of intellectual disability (ID) by looking at the words and labels used across time and place for conditions that might be subsumed by the umbrella-term 'intellectual disability' in modern Western society. The book discusses concepts of ID in medieval natural science, that is, anatomical and medical texts, now termed as the neurological foundations. Turning from the material aspects of neurology to the immateriality of psychology, it treats mind and soul in relation to ID. Discussing the theme of childishness, the book considers the legal position of persons with ID. The question of whether a legal case related to mental illness or ID is analysed. Thinking about legal agency returns to the themes of idiocy and infancy. The book then looks at the socio-cultural implications of ID through the lens of court fools, pets and entertainers. An overview of the link between court fools, idiots and social theories of dominance leads on to classical antiquity and the origin of 'fools', with the fully fledged medieval court fools noticeable and remarkable for 'foolish' behaviour rather than medicalised traits.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

manchesterhive requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals - to see content that you/your institution should have access to, please log in through your library system or with your personal username and password.

If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/extracts and download selected front and end matter. 

Institutions can purchase access to individual titles; please contact manchesterhive@manchester.ac.uk for pricing options.

ACCESS TOKENS

If you have an access token for this content, you can redeem this via the link below:

Redeem token

 

‘For this meticulous work in organizing evidence and arguments presented by scholars in multiple fields and languages, and focused on numerous geographies (though with a special bias towards England), specialists in the fields of disability, madness, folly, reason and unreason, and even childhood will find this work to be invaluable. This book is an opening gambit, not a definitive answer in the field, but it is a gambit for which future scholars will be very grateful indeed.'
Anne M. Koenig, University of South Florida

‘a superbly researched addition to a largely unexplored field’
Disability Studies Quarterly
June 2020

    • Full book HTML download
    • Full book PDF download (with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 863 341 32
Full Text Views 557 86 4
PDF Downloads 545 94 5