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Quarantine and Caress

  • Frédéric Charbonneau

Abstract

The experience of contagion generates all kinds of practices, preventive, curative and reflexive; medical, social, ritual and intellectual. Several of these have a strong theoretical component and definitively aim to produce an effect that we will call health, without attempting to define it further. From this dual point of view, narrative is a unique practice because it takes place after events and does not attempt to affect their course; speculation is usually as foreign to it as prescription; and it seeks less to analyse than to describe, less to understand than to touch, less to create than to resurrect. Such evocations of illness can be fictitious as in novels, or historical as in the French memoirs we will study here, without, however, depriving ourselves of calling on fiction when it is able to shed light on the imaginary dimension of history.

Keywords

Scarlet Fever East India Company Unique Practice Juniper Wood Imaginary Dimension 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    R. Rey, ‘Contagion ou “constitution épidémique’”, in Naissance et développement du vitalisme en France de la deuxième moitié dul8e siècle a la fin du Premier Empire (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2000), pp. 270–1. For the Hippocratic tradition, see for example the article ‘Épidémie’ in the Encyclopédie, signed by Aumont; L’Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, ed. Diderot and d’Alembert (Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton, Durand; followed by Neufchâtel: S. Faulche, 1751–65), V, p. 788. As for contagionist theory, Ménuret de Chambaud, a specialist in skin diseases, serves as its spokesman in the same work; Article ‘Miasme’ in IV, p. 484.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
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    J. Buvat, Journal, I, pp. 427–8, quoted by Y. Coirault in a note to his edition of the Mémoires of Saint-Simon, VII (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), p. 1484 [p. 700, n. 6]. Furetière, Dictionnaire universel (1690): ‘Parfumer, se dit aussi en temps de peste, en parlant des soins qu’on prend de chasser le mauvais air des corps qu’on croit infectez, en excitant dans les lieux d’espaisses fumées de bois de genievre, de vinaigre, de poudre à canon & autres qui font de violentes impressions dans l’air, qui le chassent et le renouvellent.’ / ‘To perfume, said also in time of plague, speaks of the care taken to chase the bad air from bodies that are believed to be infected, by exciting in the environs thick smoke of juniper wood, of vinegar, of gunpowder & others that make violent impressions in the air, that chase it and renew it.’ On the cleansing function of perfume, see G. Vigarello, Le propre et le sale. L’hygiène du corps depuis le Moyen Âge (Paris: Seuil, 1985), pp. 97–102.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, the narrative of the death of Louis XV by Voltaire, Précis du siècle de Louis XV in Œuvres historiques, ed. R. Pomeau (Paris: Gallimard, 1957), p. 1556.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Stephanson, ‘The Plague Narratives of Defoe and Camus: Illness as Metaphor’, Modern Language Quarterly, XLVIII (September 1987) 235–6: ‘Defoe is suggesting a kind of physical confinement whose claustrophobic implications are staggering. Defoe describes a people who; at the height of the plague’s mastery, are paralyzed and imprisoned in a city whose activities have been negated and confined by the plague’s menacing void… [N]eighbors are confined to their homes, the sick are tied down to beds and chairs, and there is, finally, the ultimate confinement in the Aldgate pit or in a pine box.’Google Scholar
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    Cf. D. Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, ed. P. R. Backscheider (1722; New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1992), pp. 28–9 and passim: ‘All the Plays and Interludes, which after the Manner of the French Court, had been set up, and began to encrease among us, were forbid to Act; the gaming Tables, publick dancing Rooms, and Music Houses which multiply’d … were shut up and suppress’d; and the Jack-puddings, Merry-andrews, Puppet-shows, Rope-dancers, and such like doings … shut up their Shops, finding indeed no Trade.’Google Scholar
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    A. d’Aubigné, His Life, to His Children, trans. and ed. J. Nothnagle (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), pp. 8–9; Sa vie à ses enfants, ed. G. Schrenck (1629; Paris: STFM, 1986), p. 58: ‘le premier se sentit de la contagion, qui fit mourir trente mille personnes. II veit mourir son chirurgien et quattre autres en sa chambre… Son serviteur nommé Eschalart, qui depuis est mort ministre en Bretagne, ne l’abandonna jamais, et sans prendre mal le servit jusques à la fin, ayant un pseaume en la bouche pour preservatif.’Google Scholar
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    F.-T. Choisy, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de Louis XIV. Mémoires de l’abbé de Choisy habillé en femme, ed. G. Mongrédien (1719; Paris: Mercure de France, 1966), pp. 168–9.Google Scholar
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    Abbé A.-F. Prévost, Histoire d’une Grecque moderne, ed. R. Trousson (1740; Geneva: Slatkine, 1997), p. 255: ‘achev[é] de [lui] faire connaître combien [il] étai[t] cher à l’aimable Théophé’.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frédéric Charbonneau

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