Since the birth of modern medicine in nineteenth-century Europe, its authority and influence has profoundly shaped society. Medical institutions in Paris, Vienna and Berlin identified new forms of pathology, with ‘illnesses’ such as hysteria and degeneration becoming social concerns. Such disorders, diagnosed by usually male doctors, were inevitably entangled with politics and cultural biases which were consistent with a patriarchal society enforcing the boundaries of normativity. Literature absorbed the discourse of medicine, reworking the ideas of wellness and sickness. Being ill was not merely a state of individual infirmity: authors amplified sickness to encompass politics, so it became a moral barometer for the state of the nation and much else. This Special Collection aims to examine society’s relationship with sickness through literature and language(s). Taking a European transnational and transhistorical approach, this collection aims to refract the politics of the body since the nineteenth century. The medical is the starting point for studying the dynamics of different European societies and cultures on the individual, tracking the anxieties which converge upon the body. The Modern Languages expertise, plus the analysis of language(s) through literature, heightens the understanding of the cultural construction of the pathological body. This Special Collection has been guest edited by Dr Kit Yee Wong.

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Special Collections