Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture since 1870 by Katherine Ott

By Katherine Ott

contemplate polar photos of an analogous clinical : 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 terrible guy in a Bowery flophouse spreading a dread and lethal an infection. Now Katherine Ott chronicles how in a single century a romantic, ambiguous ailment of the spirit was once remodeled right into a ailment that threatened public wellbeing and fitness and civic order. She persuasively argues that there has been no consistent identification to the ailment through the years, no "core" tuberculosis.

What we comprehend this day as pulmonary tuberculosis could were mostly unintelligible to a doctor or sufferer within the past due 19th century. even though medically the 2 phrases defined an identical disorder of the lungs, Ott exhibits that "tuberculosis" and "consumption" have been clinically determined, outlined, and handled distinctively via either lay medical experts. Ott lines the shift from the pre-industrial international of 1870, during which intake used to be conceived of essentially as a middle-class malaise that conferred advantage, heightened spirituality, and gentility at the patient, to the post-industrial international of this day, within which tuberculosis is seen as a microscopic enemy, fought on an city battleground and attacking essentially the outcast terrible 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 light 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 offers, ads for far off relaxation remedies, open air in poor health porches, and invalid hammocks--Ott offers perception into people's figuring out of disease and the way to wrestle it. Fevered Lives underscores the moving meanings of consumption/tuberculosis in an awfully readable cultural heritage.

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In the 1860s and 1870s Erastus Beadle published immensely popular dime novels recounting high adventure and boisterous times in the wild West. In a sense, patients viewed their own illnesses as adventures. Consumptives in these years were active patients, and climate therapy was a courageous effort toward self-care and personal responsibility. People went West for different reasons. The quitting of polluted and unhealthful cities for rural oases dates far back in American tradition. Thomas Jefferson produced some of our most influential antiurban prose on the virtues of an agrarian civilization over a noxious urbanized polity.

In the name of cholera eradication, health officials directed the razing of slums and apartment houses, and drummed immigrants from town to town. Sanitationists advocated home plumbing, waste disposal, and water system regulation. At midcentury city health officials believed the major culprits in disease to be deficient drainage, filthy streets, polluted water supplies, poor ventilation, and improperly constructed buildings. 7 T h e epidemic model for disease had serious limitations as a template for understanding consumptions.

Their aesthetic objectification of nature paved the way for a therapeutic interpretation of American wilderness areas in the 1870s and 1880s. In antiurbanist rhetoric, consumption had been blamed on American city life since early in the century. S4 It seemed obvious to observers that civilization bred disease. " 55 Moralists and physicians objected to the artificial habits that cities bred. Artificial habits and "improper living" were the euphemisms used to refer to the cultivation of the effete and neglectful behaviors associated The Ecology of the Chest 43 with civilization.

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