By Jason Tougaw
Strange Cases is the tale of the mutual impression of the case heritage
and the British novel throughout the eighteenth and 19th centuries.
Fictions from Defoe's Roxana to James's The flip of the Screw and
case histories from George Cheyne's to Sigmund Freud's have came across
narrative impetus in pathology. the author of a case heritage faces a
rhetorical bind designated to the human sciences: the necessity to reveal the
acumen of a scientist and the sympathy warranted to the anguish
patient. again and again, case historians justify their publicizing of
extreme, usually morbid or perverse, states of brain and physique through
appealing to readers to take pity on sufferers and to acknowledge the
narrative as an essential social record. prognosis and sympathy, particular
rhetorical modes in case histories, function implicitly in novels,
shaping reader-identification. whereas those narrative kinds set out
to fulfill an Enlightenment force to categorise and clarify, in addition they
raise social and epistemological questions that problem a few of the
Enlightenment's such a lot loved beliefs, together with religion in cause, the
perfectibility of humankind, and the soundness of truth.
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Additional resources for Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory)
4 These wonder narratives overlap with medical case reporting, which predates the modern period anyway, going all the way back to Hippocrates. The conventions of case reporting, however, change dramatically over time. Until the eighteenth century, cases were almost always structured to illustrate the theories of a medical authority like Hippocrates or Galen, the symptoms of a given illness understood in relation to diagnostic systems like Galen’s four humors. In the eighteenth century, when the realist novel emerges, medical case histories acquire much more narrative detail, employing conventions commonly associated with realism: time, specificity, domestic details, descriptions of states of sensibility; but they still tend to focus more on the curiosity of a given illness than close observation of the patient’s bodily symptoms.
In his influential treatise A View of the Nervous Temperament (1807), Thomas Trotter took a cue from detractors who attacked the novel on moral grounds to launch a similar medical attack, suggesting that novels could actually cause disease and that they were dangerous for women in particular: The passion of novel reading is intitled [sic] to a place here. In the present age it is one of the great causes of nervous disorders. The mind that can amuse itself with the love-sick trash of most modern compositions of this kind, seeks enjoyment beneath the level of a rational being.
Applied to the many long, detailed novels of the period, Scholes’s assertion—that “the condition of reading is the human condition”—acquires a historically specific dimension. Read alongside their analogue, the case history, these novels all about the development of the self present us with a reading experience that exceeds Enlightenment ideals of independence and self-fulfillment. These narratives ask readers to concede the vulnerability they share with the suffering subjects that drive them, to examine the epistemological uncertainty and emotional flux that follows from our encounters with them.
Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory) by Jason Tougaw