Today we think of novels as little more than entertainment. When the genre emerged in the eighteenth century, novels also had an almost medicinal function: they were texts that helped readers regulate their passions. Drawing on recent scholarship, this talk will explain how reading fiction was thought to improve health. Equally important, it will explore how many of the medical theories of the eighteenth century continue to find expression within our culture, if not within our science.
The Early Novel as Self-Help Book: The Curious Intersections of Fiction and Medicine