In Leprosy in Medieval England , Carole Rawcliffe argued that leprosy was a disease that “played a notable part in the medieval imagination and was accorded significance far beyond the physical threat it actually posed to the population.” 1 The
Complicating the Medieval Leper through Gender and Social Status
Christina Welch and Rohan Brown
The English conquest of Ireland during the sixteenth century was accompanied by extreme violence. Historians remain divided on the motivations behind this violence. This article argues that the English violence in Ireland may be attributed to four main factors: the fear of foreign Catholic intervention through Ireland; the methods by which Irish rebels chose to fight; decisions made by English officials in London to not fund English forces in Ireland at a reasonable level while demanding that English officials in Ireland keep Ireland under control; and the creation of a system by which many of those who made the plans never had to see the suffering they inflicted. The troops who carried out the plans had to choose between their own survival and moral behaviors that placed their survival at risk.
In nineteenth-century Britain, pulmonary tuberculosis – known as phthisis, decline or consumption – killed more people than any other disease. Furthermore, the social and ideological impact of consumption extended far beyond mere mortality. The common belief in an identifiable, hereditary ‘consumptive type’ of person, combined with the often chronic nature of tuberculosis, caused the disease to be regarded as a permanent, identity-conferring condition. Popular belief in the hereditary ‘consumptive type’ long predated the publication of Darwin’s theories of human evolution in 1871 and survived long after 1882, when the disease was proven to be contagious rather than hereditary, indicating that consumption carried a complex cultural significance independent of its scientific status.
The social purity ‘crusade’ that gathered force after 1885 initiated a change both in ways of representing prostitution and in public opinion about ways of dealing with the sexually deviant woman. Since the 1860s the police had been granted the power under the Contagious Diseases Acts to apprehend women of doubtful virtue in the streets and insist that they be medically examined; if found to be diseased, they could then be detained in lock hospitals. Once these acts were repealed in 1885, prostitutes had greater freedom but were also kept under surveillance by philanthropists and the medical profession. A variety of discourses constructed the prostitute either as an innocent victim of male lust or as a ‘demon’ and ‘contagion of evil’. Judith Walkowitz has argued that such an ideological framework excluded the experience of women who drifted into this lifestyle temporarily, and provided ‘a restrictive and moralistic image’ of the fallen woman. Arguably, literary representations of prostitutes tended to flesh out the potentially restrictive images used in feminist, medical and periodical writing on the subject, though no form of discourse was immune to the strong influence of the language of purity used by the members of the National Vigilance Association (NVA) and its advocates.
‘And how should I begin?’ Naturally, or post-naturally enough, at the end. We have been hearing for some time recently of the end of things and this paradoxically, is where we must start. Book titles have warned us of the End of the Nation and Nation State, the End of Print, the End of Architecture, The End of Work, the End of Man, the End of Economic Man, the End of Time, the End of the Future, the End of History and yes, the End of the World. It doesn’t take a salaried cultural critic to see here the symptom of an encroaching mood, the expression on the part of marooned journalists and intellectuals of what Raymond Williams termed a ‘structure of feeling’. It expresses not so much conviction – though these scenarios of the end could not in one way be more final – as the waning of common beliefs and values. Hence the appearance world-wide of millennial sects, outcrops of New Age mysticism, the thrill of out of body experiences and the paranormal; even if, thanks to postmodernism, these tend to be more normal than para, and to come at you via the X Files or the Virgin multiplex than anywhere more distant. New media combine oddly with the new mysticism, advanced technologies with advancing teleologies. This is the way then that we are seeing in the fin de siècle, the beckoning end of century when Bakhtinian carnival will at last take to the streets, fleeing its confinement in works of cultural theory, and we shall all go belly up and dance our heads off. Or when half the world will fall into poverty, disease, and starvation and the other half wear itself out in vainglorious in-fighting, leaving a sybaritic residue to enter upon a computer-aided decadence of virtual existence. Or when we shall go up in smoke in a bang and whimper all at once.
Conceptions of the ‘good life’ and the various accounts of human well-being almost always entail some reference—direct or indirect—to physical and psychic health. The very term ‘disease’ implies ‘disease’, an absence of that which renders the human condition agreeable. There are many dimensions to disease, and to its counterpoint, ‘good health’. These range from concerns with therapy and the therapeutic to the advance of our understanding—in the modern world through the natural and social sciences—of illness, and from the cultural significance of disease to the economic costs and implications of ill-health and its management. Under the conditions of ‘modernity’ the nature and meaning of illness and of disease, though still culturally contested, has changed. Modern science has rendered the previously ‘inscrutable’ open to scrutiny and explanation. The advance of therapy is now inextricably bound up with the explanation of illness at the microbial, molecular and genetic levels. One consequence of the modern science of medicine has been to underwrite a quest for cures—paradigmatically embodied in new surgical interventions and technologies as well as, iconically, in the quest for ‘magic bullets’ represented, to begin with, by Paul Ehrlich’s salvarsan and later extended to antibiotics and to new-generation ‘designer drugs’.
moral and intellectual gardens the better. Notes 1 Geoffrey Parker and Lesley M. Smith, eds., The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (London: Taylor and Francis, 1997). 2 Bruce M.S. Campbell, The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society
Chaucer’s Vocabulary of Mischance
Chaucer’s work. One of Chaucer’s usages is a personification (Mischance sits in the middle of Mars’s temple, CT I.2009), and the words with which the term collocates include hell, women ( CT VII.2062), peril, woe, fortune and disease. In the ABC, the
Shakespeare and the Modern Monarchy
’s coronation. For in this story, too, its heroine Helena declares in rhyme, the issue is ‘The King’s disease – my project may deceive me, / But my intents are fixed and will not leave me’ (1.1.211–212). ‘A serious political history could be done of excrement
Myth and Reality in Shangri-La
Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell
witnessed the mass deaths from starvation and disease on the roads out of the city of Kweilin after the population fled following rumors of a Japanese advance. 6 Johnston reported not only on the horror of what he witnessed but also on the incompetence and