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Smallpox and the Literary Imagination, 1660–1820
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  • Page extent: 280 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.55 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521872096)

Smallpox was a much feared disease until modern times, responsible for many deaths worldwide and reaching epidemic proportions amongst the British population in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This book is a substantial critical study of the literary representation of the disease and its victims between the Restoration and the development of inoculation against smallpox around 1800. David Shuttleton draws upon a wide range of canonical texts including works by Dryden, Johnson, Steele, Goldsmith and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the latter having experimented with vaccination against smallpox. He reads these texts alongside medical treatises and the rare, but moving writings of smallpox survivors, showing how medical and imaginative writers developed a shared tradition of figurative tropes, myths and metaphors. This fascinating study uncovers the cultural impact of smallpox, and the different ways writers found to come to terms with the terror of disease and death.

• The first study of the literary representation of smallpox across the centuries • Authors discussed include Dryden, Johnson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Oliver Goldsmith • Illustrated with images of smallpox victims


Prologue; Introduction: imagining smallpox; Part I. Disease: 1. Contagion by conceit; 2. 'What odious change…?': smallpox autopathography; Part II. Death: 3. Smallpox elegy; 4. Sentimental smallpox; Part III. Disfigurement: 5. 'Beauty's enemy' and the disfigured woman; 6. 'Enamel'd not deform'd': manly disfigurements; Part IV. Prevention: 7. 'Beauty's triumph': inoculation; 8. 'Cow mania': vaccination, poetry, and politics; Epilogue; Appendix: smallpox in Georgian portraiture; Select bibliography; Index.


Review of the hardback: 'Smallpox and the Literary Imagination provides fascinating reading and … it adds much to our knowledge of the social and political impact of this disease. I certainly gained much from reading this book and it deserves a wide readership. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of disease in the early modern period.' Local Population Studies

Review of the hardback: '… Shuttleton's study leaves virtually no stone unturned … A welcome contribution to the scholarly debate on smallpox, Shuttleton's study offers a well-rounded and illuminating analysis of the disease's semiotic underpinnings …' Celeste Chamberland, Roosevelt University

'… important and impressive monograph …' The Bibliographical Bulletin of the International Arthurian Society

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