Medical science in the picaresque novels

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1936

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The purpose of this study is to examine the references to the physician and his associates in the picaresque novels which were written between 1550 and 1650. Because the picaro served in various capacities, such as poet, soldier, cook, actor, physician, or hermit, he had an opportunity to come in contact with contemporary society. So well did he reflect his surroundings and such ample basis for satire did he find, that it is possible to reconstruct many phases of the life around him by a careful analysis of the picaresque novels. In this study such an attempt has been made in respect to the medical profession in which one meets various types of practitioners, from the serious-minded, earnest, scientific doctor to the most rascally quack, whose name is legion. In the discussion and classification of the picaresque novels I have accepted as my authority Dr. Frank Wadleigh Chandler, whose extensive and thorough work, Romances of Roguery, will be referred to and quoted frequently. In order to present more fully the medico and others who practiced the art of healing, I have considered it adviseable to review medical history in Spain and thus to supply a background for the references to the medical profession which are numerous in the romances of roguery. [...] This reconstruction of the medical profession and the presentation of the medical history of that period will show that Spain was a pioneer in establishing medical and philanthropic institutions, and that she held a prominent position in the scientific world as well as in political realms

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