‘Make the Medick Art my whole concern’: Poetry as Women’s Literary Medical Practice

Ashleigh Blackwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The act of writing has long been acknowledged as integral to eighteenth‐century medical practice, with medical practitioners relying on their ability to communicate via the written word for professional success. Partly as a result of their literary activities, the achievements of male physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries are frequently well‐documented, yet the same cannot be said of women engaging in medical work. This essay argues that eighteenth‐century women's medical practice extended into their creative writing, with numerous women writers utilising poetry as a central form of authoritative expression on matters of health. Verse offered opportunities to scrutinise, advise on, and influence medical knowledge and practice. Print and manuscript works by authors Jane Barker (1652‐1732), Martha Hodges (fl.1675‐1725), and Susanna Blamire (1747‐94), serve a variety of functions, including arguing for women's medical education, reimagining the workings of the body, and advocating holistic forms of practice that unite physical and emotional forms of care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalJournal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume46
Issue number1
Early online date23 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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