- Pub. Date:
- Cornell University Press
The renowned historian Roy Porter here takes us on an entertaining trip through more than two hundred years of visual and verbal accounts of the body and medicine. Focusing his attention for the first time on visual imagery, Porter examines the ways in which the sick and their healers were represented to the culture at large from the mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth century. The author combines erudition, a sharp sense of humor, and abundant art to show how contrasting conceptions of the healthy and diseased body were mapped onto antithetical notions of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. He juxtaposes images of disease to illustrations of medical practice, exploring self-presentations by physicians, surgeons, and quacks and showing how practitioners' public identities changed over time. Bodies Politic argues that the human body is the chief signifier and communicator of all manner of meaningsreligious, moral, political, and medical alikeand that pre-scientific medicine was an art that depended heavily on performance, ritual, rhetoric, and theater. Throughout, Porter makes clear the wide metaphorical and symbolic implications of disease and doctoring.