Jessica Reeves

I am currently undertaking an MA in Early Modern English at Queen Mary University of London, after having graduated from Royal Holloway with a BA(Hons) in English Literature and a prize for academic excellence.  My research ties together early modern medical understandings– particularly about bodily fluids– with language.  I ultimately explore what naturally transgresses the body from the hidden inside to the outside world, the liminal substances that transcend boundaries of the body and thus challenge it; I aim to read these excretions as a language of their own.

My DEMM project encapsulates this: I am working on a collection of medical receipts and tracts on uroscopy in Middle English and Latin (Leech-Books V), dated between 1450-1550. I am focusing on extracts entitled Colores urinarum, which list the colours of urine and how each shade translates medically.  Urine was viewed differently to how it is today insofar as it was a useful substance rather than taboo; it was a tool of diagnosis, and colour was read as material proof of what was happening inside the body.  Copied in the vernacular, this manuscript reflects the growing demand for access to such knowledge.  My final edition will therefore highlight the practical side to these colour lists, as well as offer a comparison of content and rhetoric with other contemporaneous discourses.