Healing the Republic: The Language of Health and the Culture of Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century America

Healing the Republic: The Language of Health and the Culture of Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century America

by Joan Burbick
     
 

In this study Joan Burbick interprets nineteenth-century narratives of health written by physicians, social reformers, lay healers, and literary artists in order to expose the conflicts underlying the creation of a national culture in America. These "fictions" of health include annual reports of mental asylums, home physician manuals, social reform books, and novels…  See more details below

Overview

In this study Joan Burbick interprets nineteenth-century narratives of health written by physicians, social reformers, lay healers, and literary artists in order to expose the conflicts underlying the creation of a national culture in America. These "fictions" of health include annual reports of mental asylums, home physician manuals, social reform books, and novels consumed by the middle class that functioned as cautionary tales of well-being. Read together these writings engage in a counterpoint of voices at once constructing and debating the hegemonic values of the emerging American nation. That political values flow from the daily exigencies of survival and enjoyment is one of the claims advanced by theorists of cultural hegemony. Broadening this assumption, the narratives of health presented here address the demands and desires of everyday life and construct a national discourse with directives on control, authority, and subordination. They articulate the wish for a healthy citizenry, freed of pain and saturated with well-being, and they insist upon specific ideologies and knowledges of the body in order to achieve this radiance of health. Divided into two parts, the work first examines the structures of authority found in health narratives and then studies the topology of the body found in a cross section of writings. The first part examines how the authority of "common sense" is pitted against that of physiological law and its transcendent "constitution" for the body. The second analyzes how specific knowledges about the brain, heart, nerves, and eye provide individual "keys" to health, indices that reveal the conflicts inherent in American nationalism. In studying these narratives of health, Healing the Republic confronts what Burbick sees as a certain fundamental uneasiness about democracy in America. Fearing the political freedom they hoped to embrace. Americans designed ways to control the body in the effort to create, impose, or encompass social ord

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Burbick has taken on a huge project and has opened up the interrelated histories of medicine, politics, and literature in important new ways." Tom Lutz, American Literature

"...readings of an amazingly diverse array of nineteenth-century prose and poetry, ranging from the well known (Walden, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Moby-Dick) to the little known (Domestic Medicine, by the physician John C. Gunn). These readings are imaginative and frequently arresting." Cynthia Russett, Isis

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521106733
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
04/02/2009
Series:
Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Series, #82
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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