City of Health, Fields of Disease: Revolutions in the Poetry, Medicine, and Philosophy of Romanticism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

City of Health, Fields of Disease

Revolutions in the Poetry, Medicine, and Philosophy of Romanticism, 1st Edition

By Martin Wallen


216 pages

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The Romantic Era witnessed a series of conflicts concerning definitions of health and disease. In this book, Martin Wallen discusses those conflicts and the cultural values that drove them. The six chapters progress from the mainstream rejuvenation of the Socratic values by Wordsworth and Coleridge to the radical alternatives offered by the Scottish theorist, John Brown, and the speculative German philosopher, F. W. J. Schelling. Wallen shows how actual definitions of health and disease changed at the turn of the nineteenth century, and provides an analysis of the metaphorical uses to which romantic thinkers put these different definitions in their attempts to value or devalue competing concepts of individuality, poetic expression, and history. Key to the redefinition of these concepts was the use of the rhetoric of medicine to add value to those statements considered desirable and to undermine those targeted for elimination from public discourse. By juxtaposing the well-known critical works of Wordsworth and Coleridge with lesser-known works such as Schelling's Yearbooks of Medicine and Thomas Beddoes' medical treatises, Wallen illuminates the central role medicine played in redefining the human being's relationship to society and nature - part of the cultural revolution that began in the nineteenth century.


'A superb study of the interdisciplinary connections between medicine, literature, and philosophy that will be of interest to Romanticists, comparatists, and all scholars working on disciplinarity and the organisation of knowledge.' Tilottama Rajan, Canada Research Chair in English and Theory, University of Western Ontario 'Martin Wallen […] has made a useful contribution to the ongoing debate by applying his literary learning to the ways in which northern European Romantic medical throught remained in the clutches of Brunonianism, the theory that all human life reduces to states of 'excitement'… Wallen's geographical framing of the conflict as 'city of health, fields of disease' - the dissymmetry of his trope: the singular city and plural fields is noteworthy - grasps the attention. So too do his ancient Greek contexts arrest… Wallen's 'fields of disease', with its 1755 Ordinance Survey map of Spittle Fields on the dust jacket, contributes to this growing library.' Medical History '… a suggestive account that offers a fresh perspective on important issues and ideas in the philosophy of science.' Isis

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Lyrical health in Wordsworth and Coleridge; Coleridge's scrofulous dejection; The medical frame of character and the enforcement of normative health in Thomas Beddoes' 'Observations on the Character and Writings of John Brown, M.D.'; A secret excitement: Coleridge, John Brown, and the chance for a physical imagination; Schelling's medical singing school in the Yearbooks of Medicine as Science; The electromagnetic orgasm and history outside the city; Notes; Works cited; Index.

About the Author

Martin Wallen is Associate Professor in the English Department at Oklahoma State University, USA.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature