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“Intervals of Tranquillity”: The Language of Health in Antebellum America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2009

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Hurled into the vortex of a whirlpool, Edgar Allan Poe's protagonist in “A Descent into the Maelström” hangs suspended on a wall of water. A deafening roar like that of Niagara Falls and a haunting moan like a “vast herd of buffaloes” resound as the fisherman and his brother watch pieces of society and nature float by: “Both above and below us were visible fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber and trunks of trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of house furniture, broken boxes, barrels and staves.” In the midst of this swirling rubble, Poe's hero survives on luck; clutching at a water cask, he hangs on the rim of the maelstrom until the cask's buoyancy lifts him from the water's depths. Punctuated by mere “intervals of tranquillity,” this chaotic landscape emanates violence and danger.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1987

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References

NOTES

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43. Ibid., p. vii.

44. Ibid., pp. vii–viii.

45. Ibid., pp. 18–19.

46. Ibid., pp. 32–33.

47. Dain, Norman, Concepts of Insanity in the United States, 1789–1865 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1964), p. 61.Google Scholar

48. Brigham, , Remarks, p. 73.Google Scholar

49. Davies, , Phrenology, pp. 137–38.Google Scholar

50. See in particular Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1979)Google Scholar and The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (New York: Vintage, 1973).Google Scholar

51. Brigham, , Remarks, p. 82.Google Scholar

52. Ibid., p. 31.

53. Rothman, , The Discovery of the Asylum, p. 154.Google Scholar

54. Brigham, , Remarks, p. 121.Google Scholar

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56. Brigham, , Observations, p. 330.Google Scholar

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58. Ray, , Mental Hygiene, p. 102.Google Scholar

59. Ibid., p. 105.

60. Ibid., pp. 144–45.

61. Ibid., p. 223.

62. Earle, Pliny, “The Poetry of Insanity,” American Journal of Insanity 1 (10 1844): 194Google Scholar. For background information on Pliny Earle, see Carlson, Eric T. and Peters, Lilian, “Dr. Pliny Earle (1809–1892),” American Journal of Psychiatry 116 (12 1959): 557–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Sanborn, F. B., Memoirs of Pliny Earle, M. D. (Boston: Damrell and Upham, 1898).Google Scholar

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64. McLoughlin, William G., ed., The American Evangelicals, 1800–1900: An Anthology (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), pp. 127Google Scholar, discusses the religious implications of heart language.

65. Earle, , “Poetry of Insanity,” p. 195.Google Scholar

66. Ibid., p. 196.

67. Ibid., p. 196.

68. Ibid., p. 197.

69. Ibid., p. 206.

70. Ibid., p. 208.

71. Ibid., p. 224.

72. Earle, Pliny, Twenty Fourth Annual Report of the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane (New York: Egbert, Hovey and King, 1845), p. 5.Google Scholar

73. Rothman, , Discovery of the Asylum, p. 137.Google Scholar

74. Earle, , Twenty Fourth Annual Report, p. 8.Google Scholar

75. Ibid., p. 14.

76. Ibid., p. 14.

77. Ibid., p. 14.

78. Ibid., p. 24.

79. Ibid., p. 21.

80. Ibid., p. 29.

81. Ibid., p. 33.

82. Earle, Pliny, “On the Causes of Insanity,” American Journal of Insanity 4 (01 1848): 199.Google Scholar

83. Ibid., pp. 205–6.

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