Wednesday, 27 March, 5:30-7pm: Michael Boyden (Radboud University), “Choleraic Communication in the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Invalidism” (Sorbonne Université, English Department Library, Salle Louis Bonnerot, Esc. G, 2nd floor / Zoom)

Report // Michael Boyden, “Choleraic Communication in the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Invalidism,” 27 March 2024

The bacteriological revolution of the late nineteenth-century gave rise to a “new language of immunity” (Anderson), substituting for the earlier discourses of acclimatization that had been dominant up until that point. Not only did this new language of immunity articulate new modes of being in the world and forms of governmentality, it also generated new narrative models and tropes, such as that of the “healthy carrier” and similar “gothic” figures as analyzed by, among others, Priscilla Wald and Neel Ahuja. As these scholars acknowledge, however, the bacteriological revolution did not so much reject as reconfigure earlier doctrines of environmental and climatic determinism, which continued to inform understandings of disease transmission even as the focus shifted away from sanitation toward discrete pathogens or microbes. In my talk, I aim to contribute to a more historically differentiated account of such “outbreak” narratives by focusing attention on the autoethnography of American tropical health travelers at the time of the second cholera epidemic of 1832. Since this epidemic reached the American mainland before it arrived in the Spanish islands, its trajectory challenged the moralized geography according to which such communicable diseases were perceived, just as the Caribbean was developing into a health resort for northern invalids seeking a climate cure for their illnesses. These tensions run through the memoirs of American invalids residing in the region, such as Sophia Peabody and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brother Edward. In my talk, I explore how these and other tropical health travelers – who might be regarded as the inverse type of the “healthy carrier” as theorized by Wald, while in some ways prefiguring current understandings of environmental illness – at once challenged and reconfirmed climate-based understandings of the world before the introduction of the germ theory of disease. My presentation, thus, is an attempt to rethink the ways in which we conventionally narrate and periodize the history of epidemic disease in terms of its causes (from demons, to miasmas, to germs).

Michael Boyden is a professor of English at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His research is primarily in American literature, with a special interest in ecocriticism, Anthropocene studies, and critical sustainability studies. Boyden is the author, among other things, Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics (Oxford University Press, 2022), which tracks the genesis of the modern, future-oriented understanding of climate in travel writings coming out of the American tropics in the period 1770-1860. Boyden is also the editor of a collected volume titled Climate and American Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2021). This book brings together contributions by leading scholars in the fieldfocusing specifically on the ways in which the climate has left its mark on American literary culture from the colonial period up to the present. Boyden has also published on topics including environmental illness, climate fiction, futurism, and Indigeneity.

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ID de réunion: 950 3261 2162
Code secret: 277197

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Thomas Constantinesco (2024, 4 mars). Wednesday, 27 March, 5:30-7pm: Michael Boyden (Radboud University), “Choleraic Communication in the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Invalidism” (Sorbonne Université, English Department Library, Salle Louis Bonnerot, Esc. G, 2nd floor / Zoom). A19. Consulté le 21 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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A propos Thomas Constantinesco

A former student of the École normale supérieure, I hold an agrégation in English. I was appointed as Associate Professor at Université Paris Diderot in 2010 where I teach American Literature and Literary Translation. Before joining Paris Diderot, I also taught at Yale University and Keble College and Magdalen College, Oxford. Between 2014 and 2019, I was a junior research fellow at the Institut universitaire de France. From 2019 to 2021, I will be a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in the English Faculty at the University of Oxford.

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