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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century


Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein

What did eighteenth-century men and women think about when they contemplated the future? What was hidden in the «dark bosom of futurity», as Richardson’s Pamela calls it? Do all types of literature that supply a critique of the present conjure up an idealized past or a vision of a better future? Predictions and prophecies – not only astrological but also political ones, utopian models, theological concepts like predestination, progress in the sciences, and, last but not least, life-after-death, both in the form of secular fame and the immortal soul, are among the topics addressed by the essays collected in this volume.


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“ONLY KEPT UP BY THE CREDULOUS AND IGNORANT”: EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY RESPONSES TO THE ANCIENT BELIEFS ABOUT MENSTRUAL BLOOD Sara Read, Loughborough University Early-modern medicine can often be seen to be looking back and deferring to the ancient authorities of Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen rather than looking to the future. The futurity theme of this collection is, therefore, a useful one to apply to the history of medicine, because by examining medical texts over an extended period it becomes possible to see themes and trends developing which give an indication of the ways that medical theorists were beginning to envisage the future of their discipline. The ongoing attempts to theorise the exact nature of menstrual blood provide a useful subject for this sort of analysis. Writing in 1759, in his anatomical lectures Charles Jenty said of menstrual blood: The ancients imagined them [menstrual periods] venomous and Malignant, as to be ranked among the Poisons. That they withered Flowers, marred Liquors, tar- nished Looking glasses, with several other surprising Effects affirmed by them. But the repeated Experiments of the Moderns, on this Subject, have convinced us of the Contrary of that Opinion; it being found that the menstrual Blood, in healthy Women, has no ill Quality in its own Nature, but is as good as any of the whole Mass if not tainted and corrupted by its long Continuance in the Sinuses of the Uterus, or by its Heat, or Mixture with some infected Lympha.1 That Jenty should still be making reference to...

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