By Lawrence Rothfield
Very important symptoms bargains either a compelling reinterpretation of the nineteenth-century novel and a methodological problem to literary historians. Rejecting theories that equate realism with illustration, Lawrence Rothfield argues that literary historical past kinds a subset of the background of discourses and their attendant practices. He indicates how scientific medication supplied Balzac, Flaubert, Eliot, and others with narrative options, epistemological assumptions, and versions authority. He additionally lines the linkages among medicine's eventual decline in medical and social prestige and realism's displacement by way of naturalism, detective fiction, and modernism. important indicators deals either a compelling reinterpretation of the nineteenth-century novel and a methodological problem to literary historians. Rejecting theories that equate realism with illustration, Lawrence Rothfield argues that literary background types a subset of the background of discourses and their attendant practices. He exhibits how scientific medication supplied Balzac, Flaubert, Eliot, and others with narrative options, epistemological assumptions, and versions authority. He additionally strains the linkages among medicine's eventual decline in medical and social prestige and realism's displacement through naturalism, detective fiction, and modernism.
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Is Flaubert borrowing only the overt representations or symptoms of hysteria, or is he also making use in someway of the logical and rhetorical presuppositions peculiar to clinical medicine? To answer this question requires taking a short detour to elucidate these presuppositions, with their complex interplay—evident in the entry just cited—among terms such as predisposition, character, constitution, and exciting causes. Intheearliereighteenth-centuryparadigm,medical classification tends to characterize disease according to two distinct DISARTICULATING MADAME BOVARY 25 systems of causation: one internal and animistic, relying on the notion oftemperament,theothermechanisticandexternal,restingontheprinciple of constitutional sympathy.
In effect, this was the first nationalized health planning, the first attempt to ensure minimal standards of care through a whole society by the controlled deployment of medical technique. It marked the first penetration by a centrally controlled medical perspective into the areas of everyday life that novelists like Balzac, George Eliot, and Flaubert were attempting to penetrate and oversee as realists. Charles Bovary is caught up genealogically in the transformation of the medical profession—his father served as an assistant-surgeonmajor under Napoleon—so that Charles’s choice of career (made by his mother, to be sure) is logical: he is following in his father’s footsteps.
46 Merely accumulating details would be a waste of time, of course, if the physician had no epistemological guide to the pathways of illness within the body. Such a guide is provided by the new discipline of 34 TWO pathological anatomy, whose founder, Bichat, catalogues the various ways in which different “concatenations of phenomena” can lead to death, or more generally to the onset of an illness. ”47 A good doctor, Bichat concludes, must collect his details and observations carefully to have any chance of distinguishing between attacks caused physically by odor and those induced psychologically by the view of an object arousing strong emotions.
Vital Signs by Lawrence Rothfield