Diagnosing Plague Narratives
 Diagnosing Plague Narratives
This chapter aims to bracket the historical period of plague narratives between the London plague epidemics of 1603 and 1665, and then to explore more fully the critical paths that may lead us back to the future. As a cultural phenomenon, the plague makes itself known to us only by the images and narratives, poetry, medical reports, and theological disputes through which it is mediated. These are the objects of this study, the incomplete and depleted fossil records of plague as a lived experience. Whatever its microbial nature, the significance of infectious disease, including the very assumption that disease has a significance, is embedded in the history of its cultural construction. Insisting that “the infected individual is never value-neutral,” Sander Gilman sees the symptoms of disease as a “complex text” read, and to be read, “within the conventions of an interpretive community” and “in the light of earlier, powerful readings of what are understood to be similar or parallel texts.”
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