Roy Porter's Bodies Politic Analysis

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Roy Porter’s Bodies Politic is a well-documented study, rich in illustrations of visual and literary representations, of the social and cultural attitudes towards health, disease, mortality and doctors in Britain from the seventeenth century to the end of the Victorian age. Though the time- frame is clearly stated in the title, Porter has briefly but sincerely traced the cultural history of healing and doctoring in Europe since the Classical times, both in spiritual and pathological senses, and discussed the changing portrayal of the doctor-figure in literature, lithographs and painting through the early and later Tudor periods, and the Jacobean age – before coming to the 1650s. He uses the religious attitudes in early modern England to study…show more content…
Her focus is on the role of the Victorian doctor as a representative of objective, empirical science, and in this light, she shows the doctor-characters in conflict with the intersubjective, familial and emotional ethics of the typical middle-class Victorian life. Basically, her book examines the incompatibility between the marriage-plot in the Victorian novel, and the doctor-figure in general. The range and dynamics of Sparks’ choices of literary texts and character-types demand critical appraisal. Her approach to Victorian medical science is nevertheless simplified at times, especially when she tends to see the medical profession as a monolithic disciplinary view of empiricism, objectivity, and materialist science. As a result, her study seems wanting in a broader and deeper interdisciplinary consciousness. In an attempt to offer literary interpretation of all that medically happens in the novels, the argument sometimes shows a tendency towards generalization and simplification. A clearer balance between “literalizing the medical” and “medicalizing the literary” can be found in Meegan Kennedy’s book-length study, Revising the Clinic: Vision, Representation and Knowledge in Victorian Medical Narrative and the Novel. She revisits the Foucauldian…show more content…
Using the nineteenth century theories of vision and speculation, with reference to Daston and Claude, she aptly points out that in nineteenth century medical ethics, the growing importance of speculation, “invite a sympathetic or humanist mode of investigation that acknowledges the subjective experiences of both narrators and their objects of study” (5). The final chapter of Revising the Clinic explores how a combination of medicine and psychoanalysis can bring new interpretations of “gaze”, “insight” and “knowledge” in the imperial context. Kennedy examines Freud’s ‘unique model of vision’ that on the one hand brings a synthesis between medical observation and curious insight and speculation, and on the other, “explores, reads, and maps the resistant wilds of a labyrinthine hysteria” (5). Her reading of the imperial romance in the late-Victorian period applies the Freudian notion of the unconscious to the imperial vision and representation of the exotic

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