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AbstractThis article is concerned with the physicality of envy primarily in early -modern, but also in eighteenth-century health contexts. The discussion brings together descriptions of the effects of envy on the body of the envier, mainly from works of physiology and health preservation, but also from literary and spiritual writings. These depictions of envy are studied beyond their symbolism and with a view to establish whether they are meaningful according to the medical theories of the time in which they occur. The discussion begins by acknowledging the status of envy as a 'disease' and looks to the specific ways in which the discourse of envy conveys this sense. I find that in the early modern discourse envy is always pathological, that is, it is experienced as disease and signifies disease in general and several diseases in particular. Moreover, envy is uniquely placed to convey pathology on account of its being connected to inherently pathogenic elements of the humoural theory. Specifically, envy is physiologically connected to melancholy, and the way it is presented comes close to attributes assigned to black bile. In addition, envy realizes pathology, the occurrence of disease in the body, by impairing the vital process of digestion and thus depriving the person from proper nourishment and sustenance. The analysis further considers how this impairment of the body fits with the physiological manifestation of envy as 'corrosion' and 'consumption'. Finding commonalities with other maladies mediated by these physiological signs the article concludes by considering the function of pathology in the conception of early modern envy.
CitationMinou, L. (2017) 'Envy's pathology: Historical contexts', Wellcome Open Research, 2(3). doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.10415.2.
JournalWellcome Open Research
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