From Blocked Flows to Suppressed Emotions: The Life of a Trope

Article Summary by Stewart Justman

This article looks into the traditional notion that disease results from excesses pent up in the body and that treatment consists of getting rid of them.  Interested readers will discover variants of this topos in surprising places—for example, in the 18th-century belief that smallpox resident in the body could be discharged through inoculation. The point is that a concept held as deeply as that of the obstructive nature of disease or the evacuative nature of treatment does not disappear easily.  Arguably, such concepts remain in play even now.

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.


Stewart JustmanI write about literature and medicine in a spirit of constructive skepticism, and am particularly interested in the evaluation of evidence. My website is

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