The dramaturgy of epidemics

Cohn, S. K. (2020) The dramaturgy of epidemics. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 94(4), pp. 578-589. (doi: 10.1353/bhm.2020.0083)

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Abstract

My essay focuses on Charles Rosenberg's provocative and enduring ideal type of epidemic drama in three acts, which he assembled from a vast knowledge of disease history that stretched from the end of the seventeenth century to his then-present pandemic, HIV/AIDS of the 1980s. Reaching back to the Plague of Athens, my essay elaborates on Rosenberg's dramaturgy by questioning whether blame, division, and collective violence were so universal or even the dominant "acts" of epidemics not only before the nineteenth century but to the present. Instead, with certain pandemics such as yellow fever in the Deep South or the Great Influenza of 1918–20, unity, mass volunteerism, and self-abnegation played leading roles. Finally, not all epidemics ended "with a whimper" as attested by the long early modern history of plague. These often concluded literally with a bang: lavish planning of festivals of thanksgiving, choreographed with processions, innumerable banners, commissions of paintings, ex-voto churches, trumpets, tambourines, artillery fire, and fireworks.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, S. K.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Publisher:Johns Hopkins University Press
ISSN:0007-5140
ISSN (Online):1086-3176
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Johns Hopkins University Press
First Published:First published in Bulletin of the History of Medicine 94(4):578-589
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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