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Genetics, molar pregnancies and medieval ideas of monstrous births: the lump of flesh in the King of Tars

Genetics, molar pregnancies and medieval ideas of monstrous births: the lump of flesh in the King of Tars
Genetics, molar pregnancies and medieval ideas of monstrous births: the lump of flesh in the King of Tars

The medieval English romance The King of Tars gives an account of a birth of a lump of flesh. This has been considered as fantastic and monstrous in past literature, the horrific union of a Christian and Saracen. However, while the text certainly speaks to miscegenation, we propose that this lump of flesh is actually a hydatidiform mole. We trace the hydatidiform mole from antiquity, surrounding it with contextual medieval examples, from theology, history and medicine, that also describe abnormal births as lumps of flesh'. By discussing medieval ideas of monsters as a warning sign, we interpret the lump of flesh in terms of abnormal births, seed transmission, parental contribution and sin. Ideas of warning, blame and intervention present themselves as a response to moles both in medieval texts as well as in modern reactions to hydatidiform moles. We explore the epigenetics of hydatidiform moles and relate them to the medieval text. In The King of Tars, the fault for the lump of flesh could reside with either parent; we find that this is also the case in the genetic formation of the hydatidiform mole; we also argue that the epigenetics supports medieval theories of seed transmission.

genetics, history of medical, literature and medicine, obstetrics, pregnancy
1468-215X
2-9
Goodison, Natalie
87c252f9-ead5-44b3-b8af-281fa60d6ae9
Mackay, Deborah J.G.
588a653e-9785-4a00-be71-4e547850ee4a
Temple, I. Karen
d63e7c66-9fb0-46c8-855d-ee2607e6c226
Goodison, Natalie
87c252f9-ead5-44b3-b8af-281fa60d6ae9
Mackay, Deborah J.G.
588a653e-9785-4a00-be71-4e547850ee4a
Temple, I. Karen
d63e7c66-9fb0-46c8-855d-ee2607e6c226

Goodison, Natalie, Mackay, Deborah J.G. and Temple, I. Karen (2019) Genetics, molar pregnancies and medieval ideas of monstrous births: the lump of flesh in the King of Tars. Medical Humanities, 45 (1), 2-9. (doi:10.1136/medhum-2017-011387).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The medieval English romance The King of Tars gives an account of a birth of a lump of flesh. This has been considered as fantastic and monstrous in past literature, the horrific union of a Christian and Saracen. However, while the text certainly speaks to miscegenation, we propose that this lump of flesh is actually a hydatidiform mole. We trace the hydatidiform mole from antiquity, surrounding it with contextual medieval examples, from theology, history and medicine, that also describe abnormal births as lumps of flesh'. By discussing medieval ideas of monsters as a warning sign, we interpret the lump of flesh in terms of abnormal births, seed transmission, parental contribution and sin. Ideas of warning, blame and intervention present themselves as a response to moles both in medieval texts as well as in modern reactions to hydatidiform moles. We explore the epigenetics of hydatidiform moles and relate them to the medieval text. In The King of Tars, the fault for the lump of flesh could reside with either parent; we find that this is also the case in the genetic formation of the hydatidiform mole; we also argue that the epigenetics supports medieval theories of seed transmission.

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22 Dec 17 Medical Humanities - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 22 January 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 7 August 2018
Published date: 1 March 2019
Keywords: genetics, history of medical, literature and medicine, obstetrics, pregnancy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 423147
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/423147
ISSN: 1468-215X
PURE UUID: 608eb52e-c631-425f-b08b-cf2ae217bbb1
ORCID for Deborah J.G. Mackay: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3088-4401
ORCID for I. Karen Temple: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6045-1781

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Date deposited: 19 Sep 2018 11:04
Last modified: 20 Jul 2019 01:11

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