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'The Soundscapes of Herb Women: Mapping Community Healthcare in Early Modern London'
Kat Lecky (Loyola University Chicago)

London's early modern herb women are an interesting footnote to the groundbreaking work done over the past few decades to uncover the lives of the women who predominated over the premodern city's medical industry. This is because herb women -- illiterate urban dwellers of the poorest sort -- mark the boundaries of early modern medicine, the limits of what (and who) we can see about community care in this era. They exist below the threshold of our visibility despite their crucial role in the seventeenth-century healthcare market. Since there is such a paucity of official records about them, this talk uses a different metric of observation to move away from an analysis based on historical lines of sight and towards a synesthetic reading of Londoners' sensory experience of them in imaginative literature as well as passing descriptions in civic and royal documents. Broadening our lens to accommodate contemporary descriptions of the soundscapes they created within the common spaces of the city allows for a richer understanding of the ways in which the medical and the cultural, the pragmatic and the affective, and the historical and the literary blended together in the streets of early modern London.

Kat Lecky is the Surtz Professor in English at Loyola University Chicago. Her research explores what made knowledge common in the early modern period. Her first book, Pocket Maps and Public Poetry in Renaissance England (Oxford UP, 2019), shows the geographical imaginary fuelling the everyday practices of building the English commonwealth. Her second book project, England’s Weedy Renaissance, demonstrates how authors of all stripes turned to uncultivated plants to fashion a native English character. She has also published essays on naturalization, the early modern politics of universal healthcare, and vegetable virtue ethics. Her work has earned fellowships from the ACLS and the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Research in the Humanities, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Folger Shakespeare, Huntington, and Newberry Libraries.

The seminar in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology is convened by Alex Aylward (University of Oxford), Hohee Cho (Wolfson College), Mark Harrison (Green Templeton College), Catherine Jackson (Harris Manchester College), and Sloan Mahone (University of Oxford)