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Healing the Republic: The Language of Health and the Culture of Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century America (Cambridge Studies in American Literature & Culture)by Joan Burbick
Synopses & Reviews
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 thesenarratives 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 soci
This book explores a variety of historical texts on health and the body with a view to their role in the construction of American nationalism.
The creation of an American national culture in the nineteenth century coincided with a common belief that the emerging nation was diseased and in need of healing. Reading nineteenth-century narratives of health by a wide variety of authors, Burbick exposes the fears and conflicts underlying the creation of an American national culture. In studying these narratives of the body, this pioneering and comprehensive work concludes that a fundamental uneasiness about democracy may result in a collective, willful effort to control the body trope as a means of composing social order.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 307-350) and index.
Table of Contents
Introduction; Part I. Textures of Authority; 1. The common senses of America; 2. Writing the constitution of the body; Part II. Fictions of the Body Politic; 1. Riddles of the brain; 2. The tell-tale heart; 3. Nervous reports; 4. Therecording eye; Conclusion: Somatic politics.
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