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‘Out of bed, but not yet abroad’: spatial experiences of recovery from illness in Early Modern England

Newton, H. (2020) ‘Out of bed, but not yet abroad’: spatial experiences of recovery from illness in Early Modern England. Early Modern Literary Studies (29). ISSN 1201-2459 (Special Issue: Door Bolts, Thresholds, and Peep-Holes: Liminality and Domestic Spaces in Early Modern England. Edited by Robert Daniel and Iman Sheeha)

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Official URL: https://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/journal/index.php/eml...

Abstract/Summary

In early modern England, patients tracked their transition from sickness to health according to where they were in domestic space. During severe illness, the sick were usually confined to bed, unable to stir; but as health returned, they gradually expanded their spatial horizons, until eventually they could leave the house – known as ‘going abroad’. Recovery was thus a state of spatial liminality – between the sickbed and the outdoors. The present study asks what it was like to make this transition, exploring the patient’s physical, emotional, sensory, and spiritual experience of the return to normal spatial life. The overarching argument is that at the heart of this type of liminality was contrast: between confinement and liberty, darkness and light, and misery and mirth. Ultimately, patients felt they regained not just their bodily faculties, but all the other aspects of domestic life that they cherished, which sickness had rendered impossible, such as the enjoyment of company, home, and garden. Through investigating experiences of getting better, this essay seeks to rebalance and brighten our overall picture of early modern health, which has hitherto focused mainly on disease and death. In so doing, it will challenge the fairly common assumption that a 'total' recovery from illness was rare in this period. The essay also contributes to discussions of the meaning of liminality in this time, demonstrating that it carried both a literal and symbolic meaning.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:89203
Publisher:Sheffield Hallam University

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