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Useful Darkness: Intersections between Medical Humanities and Gothic Studies

Wasson, Sara-Patricia


Sara-Patricia Wasson


Gothic studies has long been concerned with representations of the fragility of human flesh in the grip of illness, as well as bodies confined by medical and legal discourse. The direction of influence goes both ways: Gothic literary elements have arguably influenced medical writing, such as the nineteenth-century clinical case study. In this second decade of the twenty-first century, it is apt to freshly examine intersections between the two fields. The closing years of the twentieth century saw the emergence of medical humanities, an interdisciplinary blend of humanities and social science approaches under the dual goals of using arts to enhance medical education and interrogating medical practice and discourse. Analysis of period medical discourse, legal categories and medical technologies can enrich literary criticism in richly contextualising fictional works within medical practices. Such criticism can be seen as extending the drive towards historicised and localised criticism that has characterised much in Gothic studies in recent decades. Our field offers textual strategies for analysing the processes by which medical discourse, medical processes and globalised biotechnological networks can, at times, do violence to human bodies and minds – both of patient and practitioner. Cultural studies of medicine analyse and unmask this violence. This special issue explores Gothic representations of the way medical practice controls, classifies and torments the body in the service of healing.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date May 1, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2015
Journal Gothic Studies
Print ISSN 1362-7937
Electronic ISSN 2050-456X
Publisher Manchester University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 1
Pages 1-12
Keywords Gothic studies; gothic literature; the body; medical and legal discourse; medical humanities;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date May 1, 2015


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