The article takes as its starting point the controversy sparked off by Jeremy Collier's tract, 'A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage' (1698), and discusses the strategic use of medical metaphors during a 30-year anti-theatrical campaign waged through a barrage of pamphlets, treatises and sermons aimed at mobilising public opinion and more or less explicitly designed to trigger harsh proactive measures on the part of the secular authorities. Through a strategic oscillation between the spiritual and the somatic dimension, the figurative and the literal sense, the language of the polemicists seizes on the objectivity of medical evidence to bolster their conclusions about the far more incorporeal and slippery issue of the theatre’s immorality and its social effects. As they scrutinize contemporary theatre practice, its modus operandi and its effects on audiences and society in general, the authors of these invectives draw on metaphorical clusters through which the theatre is presented at the same time as a terminally-ill patient and as a site of contagion, and theatrical mimesis is depicted as a highly transmissible disease that is able to trespass the ontological barriers separating the fictional from the real and therefore threatens to infect the entire social body, if left unchecked.

Spreading the Contagion: The Rhetoric of Disease during the Restoration Stage Controversy

SONCINI, SARA FRANCESCA
2015

Abstract

The article takes as its starting point the controversy sparked off by Jeremy Collier's tract, 'A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage' (1698), and discusses the strategic use of medical metaphors during a 30-year anti-theatrical campaign waged through a barrage of pamphlets, treatises and sermons aimed at mobilising public opinion and more or less explicitly designed to trigger harsh proactive measures on the part of the secular authorities. Through a strategic oscillation between the spiritual and the somatic dimension, the figurative and the literal sense, the language of the polemicists seizes on the objectivity of medical evidence to bolster their conclusions about the far more incorporeal and slippery issue of the theatre’s immorality and its social effects. As they scrutinize contemporary theatre practice, its modus operandi and its effects on audiences and society in general, the authors of these invectives draw on metaphorical clusters through which the theatre is presented at the same time as a terminally-ill patient and as a site of contagion, and theatrical mimesis is depicted as a highly transmissible disease that is able to trespass the ontological barriers separating the fictional from the real and therefore threatens to infect the entire social body, if left unchecked.
Soncini, SARA FRANCESCA
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/750055
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