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A Louisiana Swamp Doctoris Diagnosis: Romantic Fatality and the Frontier Roots of Realism

A Louisiana Swamp Doctoris Diagnosis: Romantic Fatality and the Frontier Roots of Realism A Louisiana Swamp Doctor’s Diagnosis: Romantic Fatality and the Frontier Roots of Realism by Gretchen Martin Throughout the fi rst half of the nineteenth century, scientists, social theorists, and artists tended to dichotomize all facets of physical and social life. In his study of nineteenth-century medical practices and social attitudes regarding medicine and practitioners, Martin S. Pernick points out: Social iconography divided the world into two separate and dis- tinct spheres—Head vs. Heart, Reason vs. Sentiment, World vs. Home, Art vs. Nature—all seen as relations of the great division between Masculine and Feminine. But although these were two antithetical worlds, the existence of each depended on the exis- tence of its opposite . . . Between romanticism and antiromanti- cism existed a profound dialectic. (119) Assumptions regarding race and class were also characterized according to this ideological taxonomy, including notions regarding the physical body in terms of sensitivity to pain and illness. Pernick notes that the most respected scientists of the day believed that all living things might be arranged in a hierarchy of sensitivity, a great chain of feeling. Brute animals, savages, purebred nonwhites, the poor and oppressed, the inebriated, and the old, constituted © 2005 by the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

A Louisiana Swamp Doctoris Diagnosis: Romantic Fatality and the Frontier Roots of Realism

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 37 (2) – May 16, 2005

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

A Louisiana Swamp Doctor’s Diagnosis: Romantic Fatality and the Frontier Roots of Realism by Gretchen Martin Throughout the fi rst half of the nineteenth century, scientists, social theorists, and artists tended to dichotomize all facets of physical and social life. In his study of nineteenth-century medical practices and social attitudes regarding medicine and practitioners, Martin S. Pernick points out: Social iconography divided the world into two separate and dis- tinct spheres—Head vs. Heart, Reason vs. Sentiment, World vs. Home, Art vs. Nature—all seen as relations of the great division between Masculine and Feminine. But although these were two antithetical worlds, the existence of each depended on the exis- tence of its opposite . . . Between romanticism and antiromanti- cism existed a profound dialectic. (119) Assumptions regarding race and class were also characterized according to this ideological taxonomy, including notions regarding the physical body in terms of sensitivity to pain and illness. Pernick notes that the most respected scientists of the day believed that all living things might be arranged in a hierarchy of sensitivity, a great chain of feeling. Brute animals, savages, purebred nonwhites, the poor and oppressed, the inebriated, and the old, constituted © 2005 by the

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 16, 2005

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