Purity and Pollution: Gender, Embodiment and Victorian by A. Bashford

By A. Bashford

Like clinical wisdom and perform itself, such a lot clinical histories are excited about the our bodies of sufferers. Bashford examines practitioners of drugs, in addition to sufferers, as embodied and sexed topics. She brings jointly contemporary cultural and feminist theories at the physique, nineteenth-century clinical heritage and the heritage of gender and Victorian feminism. Purity and toxins is a cultural historical past which investigates the ways that many alternative practitioners - female and male medical professionals, nurses, midwives, accoucheurs - have been implicated in a discourse and a cloth perform inescapably in regards to the natural and the polluted.

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32 Miasmatic and sanitarian discourse dictated very specific work practices. Because miasmatic theories held that the human body constantly ridded itself of impurities, anything which came into contact with siek bodies was considered polluting; the work was constant and endless. The appeals far nurses to clean were almost always couched simultaneously in terms of medical therapeutics and moral urgency. When middle-class lady superintendents entered various charitable institutions newly under their charge, the process of reforming and 'purifying' not only included, but usually began with, the bodies of the women who worked there.

In such exhalations are embodied the most terrible powers of disease ... 59 In such sanitarian and miasmatic conceptualisations of heallh and disease, bodies and bllildings were mutually affective. The construction and c1eanliness of houses and hospitals, and the interaction between dwellings and the bodies within them were seen to be crucial and pOlentially produclive o f disease. The lack of dislinction beiween physical environmen t, bodily condition, and moral wellbeing meant thal lhe c1eanliness or dirliness of any of these elements could influence the other.

45 The Ladies' Sanitary Association undertook activities which became the pattern for subsequent associations of women involved in sanitary reform. The publication and distribution of tracts was the single most important function. Same of these tracls aimed to educate women about their own bodies: 'Wonders of Bodily Life', 'Evils Resulting from Rising too Early After Childbirth' , 'The Sanitary Duties of Private Individuals' . Others dealt with the application of sanitary principles to the horne, focusing primarily on ventilation: ' Mischief of Bad Air' or 'T he Worth of F resh Air', for example.

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