Narrating resuscitation: theory, knowledge, and the cultural life of eighteenth-century vitalism

Packham, Catherine (2019) Narrating resuscitation: theory, knowledge, and the cultural life of eighteenth-century vitalism. Literature and Medicine, 37 (2). pp. 346-367. ISSN 1080-6571

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Abstract

This paper considers the relationship between the practice of resuscitation in mid- to late eighteenth-century Britain, and vitalist physiology and medicine. It explores how the mix of mystery and fact presented in the scene of reanimation, and manifested in the resuscitated body as the site of such a compelling conjunction, is negotiated in contemporary vitalist theories of life and theoretical reflections on natural philosophical method. In this, it gives a particular prominence to the Scottish vitalists, especially William Cullen. It considers the attractions of resuscitation for addressing the particular epistemological predicament faced by vitalism: its combination of post-Newtonian empiricism and the inevitable conjecture—or "provisionally inexplicable explicative device"—necessary when faced with the mysteries of life. Finally, the cultural life of vitalism is considered in the work of William Hawes, Humane Society founder, and John Thelwall, radical journalist.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Catherine Packham
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2018 14:58
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2020 15:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70863

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