Sentimental Tools:Literary Narrative, Female Bodies, and Medical Identities in France, 1795-1850 Open Access

Feagin, Jayme Akers (2009)

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Sentimental Tools:

Literary Narrative, Female Bodies, and Medical Identities in France, 1795-1850
By Jayme Akers Feagin

As it did in so many other arenas, the French Revolution of 1789 razed the medical
landscape in France. Revolutionaries, pushing for open access to all professions,
successfully eradicated the corporate privilege that characterized medical practice in the
ancien régime; where they failed, however, was in replacing it with any coherent set of
professional guidelines. Professional medicine in the early nineteenth century foundered,
without a clear course between the statist and laissez-faire models that had so clearly
failed by 1803. A new clinical-associative model emerged in the 1820s that placed
doctors in a position of establishing social value both through service to the state and
through service to individual patients. Case narratives, as the primary link between the
individual and the collective, became a discursive category of proof--and an integral
component of medical identity--in the early nineteenth century. Doctors consciously
sought to establish their place in the social hierarchy through a "scientific" validation of
the bourgeois worldview, particularly with regard to questions of gender and class. They
further cemented their authority by using literary narratives--sentimental, gothic, and
realist--to give their arguments currency by establishing both the social value and the
expertise of medical professionals. This dissertation thus argues for a re-
conceptualization of the process of medical professionalization as a process of identity
construction, based on a performative model of negotiation between creator and

Table of Contents

1. The Construction of Medical Identities:

Rethinking Professionalization in the Nineteenth Century...1

Part I: Foundations of Post-Revolutionary Medical Identity

2. The French (Medical) Revolution:
Changing Conceptions of the Liberal Professions...41

3. A Category of Proof:
The Case Study in Nineteenth-Century Medicine...68

4. The Rise of Obstetrics:
Gender, Authority, and Medical Specialization...101

Part II: The Poetics of Professionalization

5. Sentimental Medicine:
Establishing the Social Value of Medicine in the 1830s...137

6. Realist Medicine:

Privileging Medical Expertise in the 1840s...174

7. Conclusion:

Rethinking Professionalization...204


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