Abstract

Although Philippe Ariès’s claims that death has been replaced by illness as our main obsession, I argue that illness is being replaced by wellness, an approach to living that encourages preemptive behavior. I review various critiques of “survivalism,” a view that both insists on our vulnerability and welcomes professional intervention in personal life. The resulting sense of anxiety, critics maintain, extends even to the “minutiae of human behavior,” including diet and fitness. I follow Jackson Lears in tracing these therapeutic commitments to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and examine a novel set in that period: T. C. Boyle’s The Road to Wellville, a satire about the perils of healthy living. I conclude by adapting Michael Sandel’s arguments against genetic enhancement to the issue of health.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 486-506
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-20
Open Access
No
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