Francois Rabelais: Medical Humanist

This project investigates the fictional works and private correspondence of French Humanist writer Francois Rabelais to demonstrate how his professional medical knowledge informed his approach to writing fiction and his ambitions for what his books might achieve amongst his readers.

Rabelais is a major voice in European culture whose influence extends beyond the purely literary to the fields of medicine, law, theology, philosophy and humour theory and his idiosyncratic style of writing and fusion of genres and disciplines is often cited as having influenced non-Francophone writers, such as Sterne, Márquez and Bakhtin.

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Dr Alison Williams (pictured) is leading the Wellcome Trust-funded project.

The research will culminate in the publication of a major monograph on the role of medicine in Rabelais' literary works and private letters.


Alison is the Director of RIAH's Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research (MEMO) and a member of the Research Group for History, Health and Culture (RGHHC).

Both research groups are home to a number of innovative research projects in the broad area of Medical Humanities, including the following major research projects also funded by the Wellcome Trust:

He is important for the history of medicine because of the controversial medical issues of the Renaissance, such as pharmacology and human anatomy, discussed in his works.

Click on the video link below to view Alison talking about the project. 

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