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Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature$
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Lesel Dawson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199266128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266128.001.0001

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‘My Love is as a Fever’: Medical Constructions of Desire in Early Modern England

‘My Love is as a Fever’: Medical Constructions of Desire in Early Modern England

(p.12) 1 ‘My Love is as a Fever’: Medical Constructions of Desire in Early Modern England
Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature

Lesel Dawson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers an introduction to medical ideas about lovesickness and the ways in which these are represented in literature. It is divided into three sections. The first section details the physiological construction of lovesickness, cataloguing its origins, symptoms, and cures, and suggesting how the four aetiologies of lovesickness offer different ways of conceptualizing desire and its bodily impact. This is followed by a consideration of historical accounts of individuals experiencing the disease in diaries, letters, and doctors' case notes. The final section examines the self-fashioning of the melancholy lover; it details the social and intellectual connotations of lovesick display and analyses the disease's psychic and seductive functions. Lovesickness is shown to be an effective tool in courtship, providing an important means of expression desire and of engineering its fulfilment.

Keywords:   love, courtship, desire, sexuality, seduction, medical history, medicine, melancholy, gender

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