English and Comparative Literature
Undergraduate and Graduate Seminar
This seminar serves as an introduction to the British literature and culture of the long eighteenth century through the lens of the medical humanities. In the period roughly defined as 1688-1815, the progress of medicine was shaped by a new strain of Enlightenment thinking, which held that reason and empiricism could lead to accurate scientific knowledge about the body. Yet the period also saw the lingering presence of other ways of knowing about fundamental bodily concepts, like illness, disease, health, and disability—from the humors of Galenic medicine to the notion of maternal imagination, which explained how a woman could give birth to rabbits. This course explores the collision of medical epistemologies in this period of change by reading eighteenth-century novels, poetry, drama, memoirs, and medical writing. Literary writers were deeply engaged in the period’s medical discoveries, and their writing served as a testing-ground for working out ideas about the competing roles of bodies in the complex sociocultural world of the eighteenth century.
To apply, please write to the instructor with a brief statement of interest.
Link toVergil Note: only courses offered during the two previous semesters have active Vergil links.