In the political turmoil of mid-seventeenth-century England, both socio-political utopias and dystopias were repeatedly imagined through corporeal images and medical metaphors and narratives. The new iatrochemistry—Paracelsian and subsequently Helmontian medicine—featured especially prominently in this intriguing textual landscape. Focusing on this particular healing paradigm, and drawing on insights from cultural theory of the body and medical history, this intertextual analysis of medical writings, English Civil War playlets, and political treatises by Harrington, Winstanley, Coppe, and Hobbes, seeks to understand better the complex interplay of medical, political, and religious ideas and discourses around the nexus of the body in the turbulent revolutionary years. The findings challenge the notion that there was an ontological relationship between chemical medicine and radical politics in these years of crisis, demonstrating that, on the contrary, political writers drew upon medical ideas and metaphors selectively and often inconsistently in order to lend persuasive authority to their arguments.
Margaret Healy; Medicine, Metaphor, and “Crisis” in the Early Modern Social Body. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2016; 46 (1): 117–139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3343147
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