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Medicine-by-Post

The Changing Voice of Illness in Eighteenth-Century British Consultation Letters and Literature

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Wayne Wild

Medicine-by-Post is an interdisciplinary study that will engage readers both in the history of medicine and the eighteenth-century novel. The correspondence from the large private practices of James Jurin, George Cheyne, and William Cullen opens a unique window on the doctor–patient relationship in England and Scotland from this period. The letters, many previously unpublished, reveal a changing rhetoric that mirrors contemporary shifts in medical theory and the patient’s self-image.
Medicine-by-Post uncovers the strategies of self-representation by both healers and patients, and reinterprets the meaning of illness and the medical encounter in eighteenth-century literature in the light of true-life experience. The tension between the patient’s personal needs and the doctor’s professional will presents a ready metaphor for the novelist, depicting the social expectations placed upon the individual as well as a measure of one’s moral character in the context of illness.
The correspondence also demonstrates the subtle changes in rhetoric regarding ‘sensibility’, reflecting evolving medical speculation. It also describes the differing perspectives of the female body between doctors and novelists and the women patients themselves. Yet much of this correspondence shows an unexpected blend of metaphor with a realistic and utilitarian approach to therapeutic advice and the patient’s own compliance. In these letters we discover some genuinely sympathetic doctors.

Remapping Reality

Chaos and Creativity in Science and Literature (Goethe – Nietzsche – Grass)

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John A. McCarthy

This book is about intersections among science, philosophy, and literature. It bridges the gap between the traditional “cultures” of science and the humanities by constituting an area of interaction that some have called a “third culture.” By asking questions about three disciplines rather than about just two, as is customary in research, this inquiry breaks new ground and resists easy categorization. It seeks to answer the following questions: What impact has the remapping of reality in scientific terms since the Copernican Revolution through thermodynamics, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics had on the way writers and thinkers conceptualized the place of human culture within the total economy of existence? What influence, on the other hand, have writers and philosophers had on the doing of science and on scientific paradigms of the world? Thirdly, where does humankind fit into the total picture with its uniquely moral nature? In other words, rather than privileging one discipline over another, this study seeks to uncover a common ground for science, ethics, and literary creativity.
Throughout this inquiry certain nodal points emerge to bond the argument cogently together and create new meaning. These anchor points are the notion of movement inherent in all forms of existence, the changing concepts of evil in the altered spaces of reality, and the creative impulse critical to the literary work of art as well as to the expanding universe. This ambitious undertaking is unified through its use of phenomena typical of chaos and complexity theory as so many leitmotifs. While they first emerged to explain natural phenomena at the quantum and cosmic levels, chaos and complexity are equally apt for explaining moral and aesthetic events. Hence, the title “Remapping Reality” extends to the reconfigurations of the three main spheres of human interaction: the physical, the ethical, and the aesthetic or creative.

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Edited by Martin Willis and Catherine Wynne

Victorian Literary Mesmerism examines the engagement between literature and mesmerism in Victorian writing. Drawing on recent trends in interdisciplinary literary scholarship the essays collected here investigate the complex connections between scientific mesmerism, its manifestations in the Victorian social and cultural world, and the literary imagination. Here, for the first time, the varied themes and contexts shaped by mesmeric practices are brought together in one volume. Mesmerism’s influence on phrenology, medicine and mental health; its interaction with the occult and with communication technologies; the effects of mesmeric principles on gender and sexuality, as well as on criminal behaviour, are all set within the context of literary texts that interrogate and critique mesmerism’s influence on the Victorians. This volume will be of interest, therefore, to scholars of Victorian literature and the history of science, as well as to those interested in cultural history with a focus on gender, sexuality, and sciences of the mind.