Jesuit hypochondria in early modern Naples

I always assumed Early Science and Medicine was what happened during 9am ward meetings, but it’s apparently an academic history journal.

In a recent issue, it has a curious article that discusses a ‘plague’ of ‘hypochondria‘ (an unfounded fear of serious illness) that apparently swept through the Jesuit community in 17th century Naples.

The first sentence of the abstract is completely priceless.

Poetry or pathology? Jesuit hypochondria in early modern Naples.

Early Science and Medicine, 12 (2), 187-213.

Haskell Y.

In their didactic poems on fishing and chocolate, both published in 1689, two Neapolitan Jesuits digressed to record and lament a devastating ‘plague’ of ‘hypochondria’. The poetic plagues of Niccol√≤ Giannettasio and Tommaso Strozzi have literary precedents in Lucretius, Vergil, and Fracastoro, but it will be argued that they also have a real, contemporary significance. Hypochondria was considered to be a serious (and epidemic) illness in the seventeenth century, with symptoms ranging from depression to delusions. Not only did our Jesuit poets claim to have suffered from it, but so did prominent members of the ‘Accademia degl’Investiganti’, a scientific society in Naples that was at odds with both the religious and medical establishments.

Link to PubMed entry.

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