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This chapter focuses on the hybrid genre of pamphlet advertisements of proprietary medicines from the late seventeenth century. These texts have a dual purpose: on the one hand, they promote a medical product, and on the other hand, they appropriate and distribute medical information for the general public. A move analysis of thirty-two advertisements reveals seven structural elements, of which three can be considered obligatory elements. Parallels with the structural elements of recipes and specialised medical treatises are also considered to show how established elements are appropriated and mixed from different existing genres alongside completely fresh elements in the new hybrid genre. The analysis thus shows the dynamic nature of medical writing of the period, in which authors made use of their considerable knowledge of established medical genres and the characteristics of the contemporary medical marketplace to form a new genre for new purposes.
Written by an interdisciplinary team of scholars, this book offers novel perspectives on the history of medical writing and scientific thought-styles by examining patterns of change and reception in genres, discourse, and lexis in the period 1500-1820. Each chapter demonstrates in detail how changing textual forms were closely tied to major multi-faceted social developments: industrialisation, urbanisation, expanding trade, colonialization, and changes in communication, all of which posed new demands on medical care. It then shows how these developments were reflected in a range of medical discourses, such as bills of mortality, medical advertisements, medical recipes, and medical rhetoric, and provides an extensive body of case studies to highlight how varieties of medical discourse have been targeted at different audiences over time. It draws on a wide range of methodological frameworks and is accompanied by numerous relevant illustrations, making it essential reading for academic researchers and students across the human sciences.
This introductory chapter discusses the contents of the volume with its focus on genres and text traditions of medical discourse in a diachronic perspective. Variability of medical language with its conventions and traditions of writing is a leading theme in several chapters and surfaces in others as well. The social and cultural contexts of production and use as well as meaning-making processes of written texts as communicative events receive attention. All contributions take context in textual production and use into account. Another point of emphasis is variation in discourse forms in texts that were removed from the original settings and repurposed for new readerships. Texts circulating in Britain are at centre stage, but medical discourses reflecting common ideological assumptions had a broad currency and English writers shared profoundly in the pan-European medical culture.
English medical texts from the period 1500–1700 are a large and heterogeneous group of writings, including texts circulating in print and manuscript forms on a range of medical topics, representing a variety of genres, written by authors with varying educational and professional backgrounds for different types of target audiences. The 200 years in focus here were a period of important changes from the medieval world view to the first stages of empirical science. In this chapter, we shall first discuss the background and the transmission of medical knowledge with different modes, oral and written, and media, printed books and manuscripts. Sections 2.2 and 2.3 give an overview of medical literature throughout the two-century period. Section 2.4 introduces the Early Modern English Medical Texts (EMEMT), a computer-readable text collection designed to facilitate research on printed medical texts of the period and used as primary material in the studies in this book.
Printing and manuscript circulation
Dissemination of medical knowledge underwent major changes in the early modern period. The advent of printing introduced a new technology that enabled the production of multiple copies of a text more quickly and more cheaply than had been possible with copying by hand. This affected both the more prestigious kinds of text, those produced by learned men, and those texts that were meant to provide basic medical information to laypeople, for instance almanacs that might sell for 2d.
Pamphlets were a new genre of ephemeral texts that started to proliferate from the mid sixteenth century onwards. They were cheap and easy to print and distribute, and thus their prices were much lower than those of books. This made them potentially available to people of all social classes, and the practice of reading pamphlets aloud in coffee shops or even on street corners gave even the illiterate access to news, politics and advertisements (Shepard 1973: 13–14). The breakdown of censorship in 1641 caused an explosion in the numbers of printed titles, which can largely be explained by a shift from long folio and octavo works towards shorter quartos and broadsides in pamphlets and other forms of cheap print such as newsbooks (Raymond 2003: 168). Medical topics also multiplied, and while recipe books and general guides to medicine continued to be the most frequently published medical genres, a new genre of pamphlets advertising proprietary medicines became the third-most popular kind of medical publication in the second half of the seventeenth century (Fissell 2007: 114, Table 6.2). Pamphlets participating in medical as well as other controversies were another new genre, developing from the late sixteenth century onwards. These two kinds of medical pamphlets had different audiences: literate controversies had a limited readership of educated medical professionals, whereas advertisements had the widest readership possible and were probably read aloud like news pamphlets.
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