the chronicle "history" of Roger-Pol Droit


An anthology of texts dated 1495 to 1630, directed by Ariane Bayle, shows their authors questioning many points that resemble those scrutinized in the 1980s at the time of the discovery of HIV.

By Roger-Pol Right Posted today at 8:00 pm

Time to Reading 2 min.

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Spirochaete of syphilis, identified by Schaudinn and Hoffmann, 1905
Spirochaete of syphilis, identified by Schaudinn and Hoffmann, 1905 Mary Evans Picture Library / Photononstop / Mary Evans Picture Library / Photononstop

"The century of veroles. The European Renaissance against syphilis ", an anthology under the direction of Ariane Bayle, with Brigitte Gauvin, Jérôme Millon," Mémoires du corps ", 384 p., 26 €.


Syphilis, a real disease, was also a myth. Nearly five centuries before the onset of AIDS, she tied together sex and death, separated before her. Its diffusion has transformed representations of enjoyment and pretended vices, reactivated misogyny, introduced new modalities of suspicion and introspection. In the XIXe century, with Baudelaire, Flaubert, Maupassant and many others, she ended up identifying herself more or less with the genius, with the creation, with the sacred curse of the artist, and aroused for a lot of texts and studies. On the other hand, we know less about his early adventures during the Renaissance.

That's why we discover them with interest in The century of veroles, which brings together no less than a hundred texts, spread between 1495 and 1630. Ariane Bayle, lecturer in general and comparative literature at the University Jean-Moulin Lyon-III, with a dozen collaborators, has ordered by themes a rich harvest of extracts of medical, moral, poetic, theological works, etc. There are of course big names (Shakespeare, Rabelais, Erasmus, Du Bellay, Cervantes …), but we also discover many forgotten authors, and their lot of unknown or unusual questions.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also "Doctors and philosophers. A story ", under the direction of Claire Crignon and David Lefebvre: the column" philosophy "of Roger-Pol Droit

At the top of the list, the very name of the evil. "Syphilis" – the name of a tainted shepherd, appeared in 1530 in the title of a poem by the humanist physician and philosopher Fracastor (1478-1553) – will not really be imposed until later. "Verole" is first and foremost the most common name, and the rest until the Enlightenment. At the same time, there is talk of "French evil" in Germany, "Neapolitan evil" in France, and "Spanish evil" in England because venereal disease is still the disease of others. Its provenance is necessarily foreign, its origin elsewhere.

Moral reprobation

The Renaissance writers question many points that are strikingly similar to those scrutinized in the 1980s at the time of the discovery of HIV. They thus seek the home of origin (is it America, recently discovered?), The modalities of contamination (a kiss, a contact with the sheets can they be enough?), The genealogy of the transmissions (by whom passes she, from soldiers to prostitutes, from one European country to another?). They also strive to observe and classify symptoms and to understand the evolution of the disease. Their clinical descriptions are heterogeneous, ranging from chancres and buboes to alopecia areata, melting and rotting flesh, not forgetting … the loss of the nose! These pathological pictures are heavily contaminated by the moral reprobation, which demonizes the "veritable whore", castigates the dissolute mores and leads everyone to distrust his partners, or to wonder about the long-term consequences of a distant passade .


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