“Not knowing the disease you”ll miss the cure”. Considering prose fiction published in Aphra Behn’s name in a medical context
journal contributionposted on 11.02.2020, 14:08 by Sara ReadSara Read
Representations of the body, health, and healthcare practices found in Aphra Behn’s oeuvre would need no glossing for her contemporary readers, but can appear both strange and illogical to modern eyes. As Roy Porter has argued, “[t]o a large degree our sense of our bodies, and what happens in and to them, is not first-hand but mediated through maps and expectations derived from the culture at large”, and this is two way process, whereby cultural norms inform understandings of the ways a person assumes their body to function, and understandings are reflected back into cultural literary outputs. This article, then, demonstrates that by analysing this body of work in its seventeenth-century medical context, a modern reader can be brought a step closer to deeply understanding the main thematic concerns and characterisations that a seventeenth-century person would take for granted. The focus of this article is the prose works published under Behn’s name in the 1680s and 1690s. It offers several examples to illustrate its argument that analysing representations of the healthy and sick body in works of fiction offers fresh insights into the literature.
- The Arts, English and Drama
- English and Drama