Itch, Clap, Pox

Venereal Disease in the Eighteenth-Century Imagination

Noelle Gallagher

View Inside Price: $65.00

January 29, 2019
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
40 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300217056

A lively interdisciplinary study of how venereal disease was represented in eighteenth-century British literature and art

In eighteenth-century Britain, venereal disease was everywhere and nowhere: while physicians and commentators believed the condition to be widespread, it remained shrouded in secrecy, and was often represented using slang, symbolism, and wordplay. In this book, literary critic Noelle Gallagher explores the cultural significance of the “clap” (gonorrhea), the “pox” (syphilis), and the “itch” (genital scabies) for the development of eighteenth-century British literature and art.
As a condition both represented through metaphors and used as a metaphor, venereal disease provided a vehicle for the discussion of cultural anxieties about gender, race, commerce, and immigration. Gallagher highlights four key concepts associated with venereal disease, demonstrating how infection’s symbolic potency was enhanced by its links to elite masculinity, prostitution, foreignness, and facial deformities. Casting light where the sun rarely shines, this study will fascinate anyone interested in the history of literature, art, medicine, and sexuality.

Noelle Gallagher is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Historical Literatures: Writing About the Past in England, 1600-1740.

"A fascinating exploration, rich in unexpected finds and insightful commentaries. Noelle Dückmann Gallagher is a smart and accomplished guide to eighteenth-century disease and its surprising array of meanings." - Thomas Keymer, University of Toronto

"Lively and lucid, rigorous and wide-ranging, Itch, Clap, Pox is essential reading for anyone interested in the metaphorics and cultures of disease in the literature and art of the British long eighteenth century." - Professor Clark Lawlor, Author of Consumption and Literature: The Making of the Romantic Disease.

"In eighteenth-century Britain, what do high-ranking men, prostitutes, foreigners and those with deformities, especially disfigured noses, have in common? Venereal disease, as Gallagher demonstrates in this wonderfully original, groundbreaking work."—Peter Sabor, McGill University

"Tainted love, self-destructing bodies, and corrupted nationhood - Noelle Gallagher's richly-documented study reveals the pervasive grip of venereal disease on the 18th-century fictional imagination."—Faramerz Dabhoiwala, author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution

"Books about sex and illness in the long eighteenth century routinely issue from prestigious academic presses, yet each time something more continues to cry out to be said. Itch, Clap, Pox adroitly demonstrates how far the subject is from being exhausted." - George Rousseau, co-author of Gout: The Patrician Malady, Yale University Press

“Sensitive . . . deftly researched.”—A.W. Lee, Choice