Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic

Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic : Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England

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Jonathan Gil Harris examines the origins of modern discourses of social pathology in Elizabethan and Jacobean medical and political writing. Plays, pamphlets and political treatises of this period display an increasingly xenophobic tendency to attribute England's ills to 'foreign bodies' such as Jews, Catholics and witches, as well as treat their allegedly 'poisonous' features for the health of the body politic. Harris argues that this tendency resonates with two of the distinctive paradigms of Paracelsus' pharmacy which also includes the notion that poison has a medicinal power. The emergence of these paradigms in early modern English political thought signals a decisive shift from Galenic humoral tradition towards twentieth-century politico-medical discourses of 'infection' and 'containment', which, like their early modern predecessors, make mysterious the domestic origins of social conflict and the operations of political authority.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 216 pages
  • 151 x 228 x 12mm | 327g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 2 Halftones, unspecified
  • 052103468X
  • 9780521034685
  • 1,964,608

Table of contents

List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Note on the text; 1. Introduction: functionalist organicism and the origins of social pathology; Part I. Pathologizing the Body Politic: 2. 'Enter at the least pore': early modern medicine and bodily infiltration; 3. 'Ev'ry poison good for some use': the poisonous political pharmacy and its discontents; Part II. Handy-Dandy, Which is the Justice, Which is the Thief?: 4. Public enemas: the disjunctions of the excremental Jewish pharmakon; 5. 'To stop her mouth with Truth's authority': the poisonous tongue of the witch and the word of God; Conclusion: the persistence of the pathological body politic; Notes; Bibliography; Index.
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