Fracastoro’s De Contagione and Medieval Reflection on ‘Action at a Distance’: Old and New Trends in Renaissance Discourse on Contagion

  • Isabelle Pantin


In the Renaissance, the horrors and mysteries of contagion1 were manifested in their most terrible form by two mysterious diseases: syphilis, recently introduced in Europe,2 and the plague, which had reappeared in the West at the end of the fourteenth century.3 The works dedicated to syphilis were still relatively few and did not constitute a popular genre, but the latter had already inspired a considerable literature which expressed both a desperate feeling of impotence in the face of a curse which defied all human resistance, and a renewed effort to understand it. Thus, depending on what we are looking for, we can find in these works either remnants of archaic notions, such as explanations in terms of divine wrath or the use of analogical and magical thinking, or the first manifestations of a medical revolution in progress.


Thirteenth Century Magical Thinking Material Atom Medical Revolution Epicurean Representation 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Isabelle Pantin

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