Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Steven M. Stowe | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
LANDSCAPE, RACE, AND FAITH

Because so much of what physicians wrote about concerned the drama of individual sickrooms and the complexity of other people’s bodies and lives, it is striking to see M.D.s stepping back from the bedside to speak as critics and advisers with an overview. Yet many ordinary physicians did just that, projecting their experience onto the larger backdrop of society and nature. For many doctors, it seems, speaking broadly about health provided some intellectual and emotional respite from the sickroom’s demands. Moreover, a wide-angled view followed logically from their conviction that individual practice encapsulated science in the most direct, inclusive sense. These physicians felt obligated to represent themselves as belonging to their southern place, to speak out for its physical and moral soundness, actual or desired. Writing as social observers but also (they hoped) as trusted advisers, physicians thus imagined a powerful but troubled extension of their country orthodoxy into far-reaching realms of southerners’ well-being.

In one sense, by writing broadly, physicians experimented with what would become the modern voice of professional authority. And yet the means—the texts—available to them to speak in this all-encompassing fashion did at least as much to bolster the individual, parochial texture of traditional rural practice. In fact, as we will see, much of the appeal of becoming public spokesmen for shared values was the sense of belonging it conveyed. Physicians could think of themselves as preserving social continuity, as well as the continuity of their individual patients’ lives in the face of malady’s threatened chaos.

This chapter considers three contexts for physicians writing their medicine large. In the first, the physician acted as a social ethnographer and critic by writing one of the canonical texts of orthodox medicine, an essay form called

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Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Social Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style 1
  • Part One - Choosing Medicine 13
  • Chapter One - Men, Schools, and Careers 15
  • Chapter Two - The Science of All Life 41
  • Chapter Three - Starting out 76
  • Part Two - Doing Medicine 99
  • Chapter Four - Livelihood 101
  • Chapter Five - Bedside 131
  • Part Three - Making Medicine 165
  • Chapter Six - The Lives of Others 167
  • Chapter Seven - Landscape, Race, and Faith 200
  • Chapter Eight - Witnessing 228
  • Epilogue - The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style 259
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 365
  • Studies in Social Medicine 374
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