1st Edition

With Words and Knives
Learning Medical Dispassion in Early Modern England

ISBN 9781138257177
Published November 9, 2016 by Routledge
194 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

The practice of medicine in the days before the development of anaesthetics could often be a brutal and painful experience. Many procedures, especially those involving surgery, must have proved almost as distressing to the doctor as to the patient. Yet in order to cure, the medical practitioner was often required to inflict pain and the patient to endure it. Some level of detachment has always been required of the doctor and especially, of the surgeon. It is the construction of this detachment, or dispassion, in early modern England, with which this work is concerned. The book explores the idea of medical dispassion and shows how practitioners developed the intellectual, verbal and manual skill of being able to replace passion with equanimity and distance. As the skill of 'dispassion' became more widespread it was both enthusiastically promoted and vehemently attacked by scientific and literary writers throughout the early modern period. To explain why the practice was so controversial and aroused such furor, this study takes into account not only patterns of medical education and clinical practice but wider debates concerning social, philosophical and religious ideas.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Faithful eyes; Rational minds; Godly hearts; Disciplined hands; Necessary inhumanity; Conversant with the dead; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.

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Lynda Payne is Professor in the Department of History, University of Missouri - Kansas City, USA.


’This book raises more questions than it answers, but is a fine and richly textured work of scholarship. Payne is to be applauded for opening up a complex and fascinating topic and striking an original and revealing path through it.’ Sixteenth Century Journal