Toxic Texts and Reading Remedies: Literary Medicine in Eighteenth-Century Print Cultures
Abstract

Abstract:

Today the idea of reading for health is perhaps most commonly associated with the term bibliotherapy. This seemingly new practice might be considered a significant shift of public and professional medical attitudes when compared with historical interpretations of the impact of reading on individuals’ health. Much historiography concerning the reception of popular literature in eighteenth-century print culture has focused on the belief that readers of fiction, most often women, were at risk of corrupting their own minds and bodies through their reading choices. Yet, although popular, this view was not exclusively subscribed to by either medical practitioners or the wider public. This article reveals perspectives that warned against and celebrated the effects of reading on human health during the eighteenth century. Unlike what we see from much contemporary scholarship there is, in fact, a range of evidence which demonstrates that eighteenth-century medical practitioners were already engaging with the concept of reading as a therapeutic activity.


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