- Restrictions on Access:
- Open Access.
- This dissertation seeks to uncover the ways in which late medieval and early modern authors aspired to influence the physiological makeup of readers and audience members in the wake of increasingly sophisticated and encompassing notions of contagion. As I will argue, vernacular medical treatises, advice literature, and how-to books are all central to this aspiration. These texts encourage readers to inhabit literary environments in such a way that accounts for conceptions of the body as porousi.e. equally capable of absorbing and emitting infectious disease. Into this body and from this body would pour melancholy, an ailment to which these instructional works devote much space. Considered one of the main causes of plague, melancholy evolved during the medieval period from merely a personal affair, to a matter of national concern. Medical treatises and their more popular imitations sought to address this concern by disseminating the information necessary for self-diagnosis and care. The ideas and independently curative project of these works spread widely and reached canonical authors such as Chaucer, Gower, Sidney, and Shakespeare, who also sought to participate in similar methods of self-care through genre and affective design. Like the porous body, the hermeneutics common to the major works of these authors reveal meaning to be co-constitutive, emerging through the reciprocal exchange between the fiction of the text and the imagination of the reader. What these texts transmit, however, is not meaning alone, for to represent or to discuss melancholy also entails the transmission of melancholy. Literature, thus, played a practical role in helping readers cope in a culture of contagion by providing a means of self-preservation and fortification against an ever-threatening environment. Yet despite their healing agendas, performances and texts nevertheless ran the risk of spreading the epidemics they meant to stifle.
- Dissertation Note:
- Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University 2017.
- Technical Details:
- The full text of the dissertation is available as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file ; Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view the file.
View MARC record | catkey: 22111185