The anatomy of melancholy and the physiology of speech in early modern England


University of Michigan, 2026 Pauline Blvd, Apt # 2B, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Tel. 734-6239874


This paper will explore the physiological and cultural dimensions of speech pathologies in medical, rhetorical, and theatrical texts of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century England. It will explore in particular theories about the operation of nerves (vessels and spirits), muscles and cardiac rhythms in conditions of disabled or involuntary speech activity. Focusing largely on the relations between heart and tongue, this paper will argue that uncontrolled and involuntary speech activities, frequently linked to conditions of melancholia, can and should be read not only as symptoms of body, mind and spirit, but as symptoms of representation more generally in a culture in transition to print. The second half of this paper will explore the ways in which fantasies of vocal alienation and involuntary discursive activity in a range of theatrical and rhetorical texts deploy medical paradigms to articulate at once a melancholy of heart and mind and a melancholy of representation linked to the changing status of the voice in print.


Panel 6A   (Nervous Fluids and Innards in Early Modern Physiology and Culture)
Thursday, 16 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999