Title: Acedia’s Avatars in the Medieval World: Medical, Religious and Literary Perspectives (The Portuguese Case)
Authors: Machado, Ana Maria 
Keywords: Acedia;Sloth;Melancholy;Sin;Depression;Middle ages;Portuguese literature;Apothegms;Hagiography;Leal Conselheiro
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Press
Citation: MACHADO, Ana Maria - Acedia’s Avatars in the medieval world : medical, religious and literary perspectives (the portuguese case). In BALMAIN, Colette; NORRIS, Nanette, ed. lit. - Uneasy humanity : perpetual wrestling with evil. Oxford : Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-904710-92-9. p. 25-40
Abstract: In this paper I aim at studying the representation of the acedia in Portuguese medieval literature focusing mainly on hagiography and on moral didactic texts. I will begin by analyzing the concept of acedia, how it relates to such sins as sadness and sloth through the Middle Ages, how it links to the medical approach and how it is reflected in the narrative literature. The ascetic Evagrius Ponticus is the first to identify acedia as an evil thought in a list of eight companions. Cassiano and Gregory the Great inherited his list and made some changes to the now-called vices, due to their different contexts and objectives. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas established acedia's meaning and reintroduced the word in the index of the seven deadly sins. What prevails is the idea of a universal moral disorder, disconnected from bodily symptoms, despite the fortune of humoral theories. Nevertheless, literary representations did not always follow those discussions. In Portuguese late medieval copies and translations of the Lives of the Desert Fathers, the exotic word acedia is most of the times replaced by synonymous or periphrasis, even though the situation or sin are clearly acedious. The aggiornamento can be seen only in the 15 century’s Leal Conselheiro. In a first set of chapters its author, King Duarte, equates the spiritual sense of acedia with the medical interpretation of melancholic humour as well as its semantic links with the Portuguese word saudade. He adds his personal experience on how he obtained a cure and concludes that melancholy was in fact a sin. At the same time, King Duarte replaces acedia with sloth, a very laic conversion and a sign of the new times. The values of acedia, classical explanations of melancholic humour and its bonds with today's depression are quite significant in Portuguese medieval literature.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10316/14615
ISBN: 978-1-904710-92-9
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:FLUC Secção de Português - Livros e Capítulos de Livros
I&D CLP - Livros e Capítulos de Livros

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