By Katherine Ott

give some thought to polar photographs of an analogous clinical situation: the light and fragile Camille ensconced on a chaise in a Victorian parlor, daintily coughing a small spot of blood onto her white lace pillow, and a wretched bad guy in a Bowery flophouse spreading a dread and lethal an infection. Now Katherine Ott chronicles how in a single century a romantic, ambiguous illness of the spirit used to be reworked right into a affliction that threatened public future health and civic order. She persuasively argues that there has been no consistent id to the affliction over the years, no "core" tuberculosis.

What we comprehend this day as pulmonary tuberculosis may were mostly unintelligible to a doctor or sufferer within the past due 19th century. even though medically the 2 phrases defined an analogous affliction of the lungs, Ott indicates that "tuberculosis" and "consumption" have been clinically determined, outlined, and handled distinctively through either lay medical examiners. Ott lines the shift from the pre-industrial international of 1870, during which intake was once conceived of essentially as a middle-class malaise that conferred advantage, heightened spirituality, and gentility at the patient, to the post-industrial global of this present day, within which tuberculosis is considered as a microscopic enemy, fought on an city battleground and attacking basically the outcast negative and AIDS sufferers.

Ott's concentration is the altering definition of the illness in numerous historic eras and environments. She explores its exterior trappings, from the indicators medical professionals selected to note (whether a faded complexion or a tubercle in a dish) to the importance of the commercial and social conditions of the sufferer. Emphasizing the cloth tradition of disease--medical provides, ads for far off leisure therapies, outdoors ill porches, and invalid hammocks--Ott offers perception into people's knowing of sickness and the way to wrestle it. Fevered Lives underscores the moving meanings of consumption/tuberculosis in a very readable cultural heritage.

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Extra info for Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture since 1870

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Although consumptions debilitated the majority of Americans, epidemic diseases were what commonly engaged public awareness. T h e usual community experience with fatal illness on a grand scale came from periodic occurrences of infectious diseases. Most people under29 Fevered Lives 30 stood what to expect and what to do in the face of catastrophic illness from cycles of smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, and especially cholera. These diseases laid waste with a cruel bravado, while consumptions killed silently and insidiously.

Many consumptives died in accidents The Ecology of the Chest 31 or in epidemics before their tuberculosis killed them. Consumptives figured better in morbidity statistics, although even identifying the ill was problematic, since the early stages of illness passed unnoticed, periods of remission were common, and diagnostic protocols varied widely. If the scope of the consumption problem lay hidden to public officials, endemic illness remained elusive at the community level as well. 8 Consumptions did not fit this part of the model either.

The idea that disease was a discrete entity, a cellular phenomenon rather than humoral derangement, ended the preeminence of the nervous system and contributed to an increasingly mechanistic theory of life. Ideas about natural selection provided still further divergent answers to questions about just what was passed from parent to offspring. The research of Virchow, Cuvier, Darwin, Bernard, and others whittled away at vitalism until it seemed to true believers like the Reverend Moore that humans were being reduced to mere beastmachines, a prospect wholly unacceptable.

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