Medical language permeated all kinds of texts in premodern Europe, including legal, literary, devotional, political, autobiographical, and philosophical writings. The essays in this special issue are particularly interested in the functions of metaphor and of narrative. Many thinkers—most famously Susan Sontag—have commented on the problems inherent in trying to write about suffering and on the limitations of metaphorical language. At the same time, many writers (both premodern and modern) have seen opportunities in the richness, polysemy, and (sometimes) novelty of medical language. The study of medical discourse and its flexibility connects with work on the history of the emotions, on affect and feeling, on disability, on cognition and sense perception, and on form and genre. Many of the essays here consider reading as an embodied practice and explore how the practice of interpretation is altered when we think with medical metaphor. As a whole, the issue demonstrates some of the ways in which current work in medieval and early modern studies has an important place in the field of medical humanities.

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