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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses Charles Brockden Brown’s literary investment in physiology, medicine, and disease as a crucial knowledge base for his Gothic fictions. The instances of somnambulism, spontaneous combustion, ventriloqual psychosis, and yellow fever that populate Brown’s fictions are the signature pathological and quasi-pathological conditions that mark its inherently para-physiological literary terrain. Situated as cultural pathologies and quasi-clinical conditions, these diseases or diseaselike conditions function as triggers for his plots and as engines of sociocultural critique. This chapter traces Brown’s intellectual investments in medical knowledge as part of the shared border between the mental/moral and the bodily/natural and how these investments led him to situate his fiction in the interstices between the social, medical, and mental and the categories of knowledge that regulate understanding of these domains.

Keywords: Charles Brockden Brown, physiology, Erasmus Darwin, Elihu Hubbard Smith, Benjamin Rush, somnambulism, spontaneous combustion, yellow fever, mania mutabilis, Gothic novel

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