Research Repository

"Contagion and the City: Writing Boston as a Transatlantic City in the Early Nineteenth Century."

Oliver, S (2012) '"Contagion and the City: Writing Boston as a Transatlantic City in the Early Nineteenth Century.".' In: White, JC and Wang, I, (eds.) The City and the Ocean: Journeys, Memory, Imagination. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 60 - 74. ISBN 9781443837194

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Arising out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony that was established in 1628 by Puritan migrants from England, Boston for more than three centuries has been a thriving hub of transatlantic trade, communication, technological innovation, human migration, and cultural exchange. The city is located on the Atlantic seaboard of New England and Massachusetts?the geographical margins of land and sea ensuring continuing tensions between the paradoxes of connection with, and separation from, overseas cultures. Reminders of those tensions are inscribed into the layering of place names: Boston is named after a town in England of the same name, thereby embedding an invasive toponymy. ?New England? as a regional descriptor combines separation (newness) and connection (the ongoing presence of old ?England?), whilst Massachusetts serves as a ghostly imprint from the past, since it is the name of Native American people removed from the area by European settlers and their descendants. In short, founded from a seaborne ?contagion? that did not go away?and which for many inhabitants, proved fatal?Boston cannot but be anxious as well as excited by its own identity and ongoing contact with the wider world. In the twenty-first century, Boston is a world-leading hub of biotechnology and medical research to such an extent that those aspects of its infrastructure go on shaping the city?s physical, economic and intellectual character. The history of its medical press and of the dynamism of engagements with medical matters in the non-specialist press shows that writing about disease has long been instrumental in an evolution of a city that is at once American and?because of its location as an Atlantic seaport?transnational. My chapter assesses some of the ways in which the early-nineteenth-century Boston press, professional and popular, responded to seaborne contagion by connecting writing about disease with the physical and moral formation of a transatlantic identity.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: cities; Boston; sea-trade; periodicals; newspapers; journalism; medical press; disease; yellow fever; smallpox; cholera; literary geography; biotechnology; vaccination; Benjamin Waterhouse
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Susan Oliver
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2013 12:21
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2017 18:00

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