Abstract

summary:

This article looks at cases of venereal disease from the early 1700s and how healers presented themselves as shrewd interpreters of patients’ bodies and souls. Because the disease was so stigmatizing, patients were said to be unreliable narrators of their own symptoms and health histories. Practitioners, in turn, exhibited diagnostic expertise by sagely navigating such constraints. They characterized themselves as medical detectives who gathered clues and made diagnoses in spite of patients’ alleged lies and omissions. Such work entailed moral integrity, astute observations, and the ability to persuade patients to divulge their most shameful sexual secrets. These findings illuminate how a particular disease shaped constructions of medical expertise, as well as the details of early modern medical practice that we rarely have the privilege of seeing.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3176
Print ISSN
0007-5140
Pages
pp. 685-712
Launched on MUSE
2017-12-21
Open Access
No
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