Synopses & Reviews
The culmination of a lifelong interest in the metaphysics of the body by the premier social historian of medicine.
How did we come to a modern understanding of our bodies and souls? What were the breakthroughs that allowed human beings to see themselves in a new light?
Starting with the revolutionary ideas of the Renaissance that challenged the sense of the body as a corrupt vessel for the soul, Roy Porter goes on to chart how through figures as diverse as Locke, Swift, Johnson, and Gibbon ideas about medicine, politics, and religion fundamentally changed notions of self. He shows how the body moved center stage in the eighteenth century, writing brilliantly on the ways in which men and women flaunted, decorated, tanned, and dieted themselves: activities that we find familiar but that a Puritan divine would have considered Satanic. And Porter explores how, at the end of the century, the human soul took on a new significance in the works of Godwin, Blake, and Byron.
"[A] heroic feat of scholarship and a very fine epitaph to a career that ended far too soon." Andrew Miller, The New York Times Book Review
"With humor and enthusiasm, [Porter] combines a terrific fund of scholarship, canny observation and intelligent synthesis." Publishers Weekly
"[A] masterpiece....At a time when postmodernists are poking holes in that confidence, this penetrating analysis of its wellsprings deserves a large readership." Booklist (Starred Review)
"As usual, Porter's wit and erudition are evident throughout. An impressive and accessible work of scholarship." Kirkus Reviews
Starting with the revolutionary ideas of the Renaissance that challenged the sense of the body as a corrupt vessel for the soul, Porter goes on to chart how--through figures as diverse as Locke, Swift, Johnson, and Gibbon--ideas about medicine, politics, and religion fundamentally changed notions of self.
About the Author
The late Roy Porter was professor in the social history of medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London.