mercredi 2 novembre 2016

Témoigner de la maladie dans l'Angleterre prémoderne

‘Doleful Groans & Sad Lookes’: Witnessing Illness in Early Modern England

Hannah Newton (University of Reading)

The next Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions Lunchtime Work in Progress Seminar will take place on Wednesday 9 November.

9th November, 1pm, Room 2.17, Arts Two.

In early modern England, the sick were usually looked after at home, by relatives and friends. While valuable work has been undertaken on the practical roles of family members in the care and treatment of patients, the emotional and sensory experiences of these individuals have been largely overlooked. My paper seeks to fill this gap by asking what it was like to witness the illness of a loved one. Drawing on sources such as diaries and letters, I show that relatives and close friends shared the suffering of the patient, a phenomenon known as ‘fellow-feeling’ in this period. So acute was their emotional distress upon observing their loved one’s pains, family members claimed to feel something akin to the physical suffering itself. This finding supports the thesis of the scholars Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen and Joanna Bourke, who have challenged Elaine Scarry’s famous assertion that pain is an ‘unsharable experience’. Taking a new, sensory approach, I aver that it was chiefly through the ears and eyes that relatives and friends came to share the patient’s sufferings: hearing patients’ ‘doleful groans’ or seeing their ‘sad lookes’ occasioned extreme anguish. These discussions shed fresh light on the meaning of the emotion of love: the ‘signe…of true Love’, wrote the French philosopher and theologian Nicholas Coeffeteau (1574-1623), was that ‘friends rejoyce & grieve for the same things’.

All talks are free, booking not needed. Lunch will be provided.

The talk takes place in the Arts Two building (room 2.17), Mile End Campus, London E1 4NS. For directions to Mile End and a campus map, see

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