Michael examining illustrations in a rare book.

My research explores how theatre and medicine intersect during the medieval and early modern periods.

My award-winning dissertation, “Deceptive Medicine and (Dis)Trust in Renaissance Drama,” revises our understanding of early modern medical credibility by showing how deceptive and theatrical medical practices simultaneously exploited and substantiated patient trust. Recent recovery work has contested the traditional view of charlatans, empirics, and wise women healers as fraudulent “quacks,” but I clarify how both licensed physicians and lay practitioners subtly manipulated patients’ imaginations to induce lasting placeboic recoveries. These curative tricks, whose efficacy relied on deception, informed early modern medical ethics by contraposing beneficence and patient autonomy and by prompting consequentialist questions about the means and ends of medicine. Through readings of linguistically diverse plays by Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Brome, and Molière, this project traces transcultural sentiments of medical confidence and skepticism that shaped patient-practitioner relationships. I conclude that Renaissance medicine’s teleological focus on restoring and preserving health reinforced paternalistic practices in which the cure justified the deceptive means.

Research Awards

Howell-Voitle Award (for outstanding work on a dissertation in the Early Modern Period), Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2020

McLendon-Thomas Award in the History of Medicine, Paper title: “The Fabrica, the Epitome, and Issues of Accessibility in Early Modern Anatomy,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018

Future Faculty Fellowship, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2017

Grant-in-Aid Award, “A Folger Introduction to Research Methods and Agendas” Seminar taught by Alan B. Farmer, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2015

Selected Conference Presentations

“‘His Disease is nothing but imagination’: Hypochondria in Aphra Behn’s Sir Patient Fancy,” Northeast Modern Language Association, 2022

“Maestro Simone and Giletta di Nerbona: (Un)Trustworthy Medical Practitioners in Boccaccio’s Decameron,” Renaissance Society of America, 2021

“Expanding Multilingual Tutoring: Approaches for Supporting Students Writing in Foreign Languages,” International Writing Centers Association, 2019

“What is the Relationship between Author, Director, and Translator? Teaching Performance and Translation Studies through Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author,” American Comparative Literature Association, 2019

“Diagnosing the Demonic and the Divine in the Memoriale of Angela da Foligno,” Carolina Conference for Romance Studies, 2017

“John Caius and ‘the so-called medical humanists’: Rethinking Our Approach to the Medical Humanities,” UNC-KCL Graduate Student Conference, 2016

“Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica: The Intersection of Art and Medicine in Renaissance Anatomy,” South Atlantic Modern Language Association, 2015

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