Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

English

Advisor/Chair:

Christine Cooper-Rompato

Abstract

This study focuses on the characterization of Cushman’s healers in her three medieval novels The Midwife’s Apprentice; Catherine, Called Birdy; and Matilda Bone. I specifically look at the physical descriptions, medical practices, and the healer’s role within the community as an accepted medical authority. Cushman’s portrayals illuminate the different locations and situations in which women practiced medicine during the Middle Ages, thus she presents more historically accurate portrayals of female healers.

The significance of this project is that Cushman challenges the stereotype of the isolated and disfigured old crone that has been, perhaps inadvertently, perpetuated by authors and focuses on the historical accuracies of female healers. Many young readers learn about history through novels and it is important that authors present accurate historical representations of the past they are trying to describe to their audiences. In addition, this project will bring multiple disciplines together such as medieval studies, young adult literature, medical history, and folklore in order to illuminate the historical accuracies and representations of female healers.

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