Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England: Ravenous by Alanna Skuse

By Alanna Skuse

This publication is open entry less than a CC-BY licence. This publication takes the 1st in-depth examine how humans considered, clinically determined and handled melanoma within the early sleek interval, interpreting innovative literature, scientific texts and private accounts.

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Extra info for Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England: Ravenous Natures

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Neither is there any evidence 44 Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England that when it appeared in men, cancer was thought of as a feminising malady. Conversely, even this unusual 1703 account of a man suffering from breast cancer construed the illness in gender-neutral terms: Hildanus ... tells of one Poteer, an ingenious man, who had a Cancerous Tumour about his left Pap the bigness of a Hens Egg, with which he was troubled many years. Some Physician advised that he would try to dissolve the Tumour and discuss it [with emollients] ...

Furthermore, these discussions took place in literary as well as medical texts. To date, analyses of the meaning of terms such as ‘canker’ and ‘cancer’ in drama, poetry and polemic have been surprisingly few. 7 Like Hunter, however, Iyengar views the ‘canker’ of an ulcerated wound and that of a malignant tumour as ‘not readily distinguish[ed]’ by early modern medical practitioners. In this chapter, I argue that despite lexical confusion between the two categories, the majority of printed medical texts did in fact show a clear understanding of the difference between ‘cankerous’ ulcers caused 22 Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England by wounds or complaints such as venereal pox, and the more serious disease of cancer.

Medical practitioners’ means of describing these phenomena were diverse, and often confused, but consistently centred upon images of congestion and heating which subverted the 32 Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England principles of balance and circulation underlying the Galenic model of good health. 40 Bayfield’s comparison of melancholy humour with a waste product, the thickened dregs of wine, was one seen repeated in several other discussions on cancer during the period. 41 There was an obvious internal logic to these claims – since movement and vigour created (and might result from) bodily warmth, melancholy, which occupied the ‘cold and dry’ corner of the humoral system, was bound to lack those qualities.

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