Fictions of disease : representations of bodily disorder in early modern writings
This thesis explores the socio-cultural construction of disease between approximately 1510 and 1620 and pursues a better understanding of political and aesthetic deployments of bodily disorder in the period's writings. It addresses the issue of why the vocabulary of medicine featured so prominently in ostensibly different discourses of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and looks closely at the representation of specific diseases--notably bubonic plague and syphilis--within literary genres and traditions in a pre-scientific world. Two initial chapters explore the shifting representations of the disordered humoral body in early modern books of medical regimen and establish corresponding shifts in ideas about regimen in the body politic. This contextualizing approach is used to illuminate the period's literature of "excess" (improper regimen), notably Shakespeare's Richard II (1595). Two subsequent chapters focus on the "plaguy" body and its densely tropological environment. Beginning by examining plague metaphors and their highly-charged deployments in the early Reformation years and subsequently, the thesis proceeds to revaluations of William Bullein's Dialogue against the fever pestilence (1564), and Thomas Dekker's The Wonderfull yeare (1603), Newes from Graves-end (1604), and Worke for Arinorours (1609). These pamphlets are positioned within an English plague-writing tradition, as sophisticated 'Warnings to be ware' which make politically specific points relating to the Reformation and to the plight of London's burgeoning underclass of the poor. The final two chapters centre on the emblematic "pocky" body and its theatrical exploitations. Depictions of the syphilitic in Erasmus's 'Colloquies' are shown to have important shaping effects on subsequent representations. The analysis of dramatic deployments of the Pox in Nice Wanton (1560), Lewis Wager's Marie Magdalene (1567), Dekker's The Honest Whore, I and II (1604 and 1605), and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (1603) and Pericles (1607), opens a revealing window onto the curious close affinity between the Pox and the Renaissance stage.