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Sex, Spirits, and Sensibility: Human Generation in British Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature, 1660-1780

Wagner, Darren N. (2013) Sex, Spirits, and Sensibility: Human Generation in British Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature, 1660-1780. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the physiological idea of animal spirits in relation to nerves, sex, and reproduction in the culture of sensibility. That physiology held the sex organs of both females and males to be exceptionally sensitive parts of the body that profoundly affected individuals’ constitutions and minds. Sexual sensations, desires, volition, and behaviour depended upon animal spirits and nerves. A central concern in this perception of the body and mind was the conflict between rationality from the intellectual will and sexual feelings from the genitalia. The idea that the body and mind interacted through animal spirits became influential in Georgian culture through anatomical and medical writings, teachings, and visual displays, but also through its resonance in literature about sensibility. This research predominantly draws upon material and print cultures of medicine, anatomy, and literature from 1660-1780. The analysis highlights the roles of gender, markets, literary modes, scientific practices, visual demonstrations, medical vocations, and broader social and political discourses in conceptions of the body and mind in relation to sex and reproduction. Ultimately, this study fleshes out the sensible and sexual body, which cultural and literary historians have frequently referred to, and emphasizes how the organs of generation commanded particular attention and exercised special influence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: 18th-Century Studies; Generation; History of Reproduction; History of Sexuality; Culture of Sensibility; Medicine and Literature; History of Anatomy; History of Nerves
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.605198
Depositing User: Mr Darren N. Wagner
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2014 09:32
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:30
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5574

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