BOOK REVIEWS Dixon, Laurinda S., Perilous Chastity, Women and Illness in Pre-Enlighten- ment Art and Medicine (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 320 pp. $ 55.00 ISBN 0 8014 8215 1. Until the early eighteenth century women's mental and physical diseases were often thought to be related to 'furor uterinus', or the so-called 'wandering womb'. The womb, wandering freely through the body, was considered the main cause of women's instability, and, as a consequence, of their vulnerability to hys- teria, and hysteric behaviour. Laurinda Dixon tries to show that a reflection of this traditional medical belief is found in seventeenth-century Dutch paintings, usually referred to as 'The lovesick maiden' or 'The doctor's visit'. "My inten- tion is", she writes in the introduction, "to show how the art of this period revealed, justified, and perpetuated an ancient medical belief in the innate insta- bility of the female sex, thereby reinforcing traditional notions concerning women's societal roles and intellectual capabilities" (p. 3). The book is divided in seven chapters. First she gives a brief history of the uterine disorders (Chapter I). She then shows how the disease was recognised and diagnosed (Chapter II), what caused the disease (Chapter III),
Early Science and Medicine – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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