The topic of my book project is the social and cultural history of the case history in pre-modern European medicine. I trace the development of the case history in a long-term perspective, by reconstructing its antecedents in ancient Greek, medieval European and medieval Arabic medicine. The main focus of my project, however, is the rise of a new genre of case narrative in the sixteenth century, and its development into a primary form of medical writing over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I trace the intellectual background of the early modern European case narratives by analyzing their development out of previous medical genres and philosophical traditions. I also look at the intellectual impact that the new medical focus on cases had on early modern medicine and, more in general, on early modern scholarly culture. I study the social context of the early modern case narratives by examining the social profile of the medical practitioners who wrote them, and by tracing the way in which the circulation of case narratives was instrumental to the creation of a new kind of medical community. I also look at the case narratives from the point of view of the patients, highlighting their expectations about the tailoring of medical care to individual cases. I trace a long tradition of individualized medical practice, dating back to antiquity, which had new currency and significance in early modern medicine, and was an important factor in the early modern rise of the case narratives. Understanding the social and cultural conditions for the concept and practice of individualized medical care is a primary object of my project. To this goal, I compare the early-modern European collections of case narratives with the case collections that developed in early modern Chinese medicine, showing how they both originated and developed in relation to a medical practice tailored to individual needs.
! I propose to write a social, cultural and comparative history of the medical case narrative in pre-modern medicine. By shedding light on the concept and practice of individualized medical care in pre-modern times, my study will contribute to the present-day debate on the perspective of a personalized or individualized medicine opened up by contemporary biomedicine and genomic research.
|Pomata, Gianna (2014) The medical case narrative: distant reading of an epistemic genre. Lit Med 32:1-23|