Telling the flesh : life writing, citizenship, and the body in the letters to Samuel Auguste Tissot / Sonja Boon.

  • Boon, Sonja
  • Books

About this work


"This book is about the stories our bodies tell, the stories we tell about our bodies and the ways that we integrate such stories into broader political narratives about citizenship and belonging. The stories under examination are those of the individuals who wrote letters describing their bodily sufferings to Swiss physician Samuel Auguste Tissot (1728-1797), the most famous doctor in Enlightenment Europe. Consultation by correspondence enabled individuals in far-flung places to maintain contact with leading physicians and was a mainstay of the eighteenth-century medical encounter. And it did something more: it gave individuals the opportunity to conceive their psychic and somatic sufferings in textual form. Through the process of writing letters describing their ailments, the authors of these letters created textual selves, articulating bodily autobiographies and identities shaped by bodily experience. The letters to Samuel Tissot are thus not only articulations of bodily suffering, but are articulations of bodily selves. Experienced within the social, cultural and political contexts of mid-eighteenth-century Europe, they tell us how individuals understood their bodily selves in relation to broader political discourses of belonging and citizenship. What people did with their bodies mattered in a political environment beset by concerns about depopulation, moral depravity, and corporeal excess, and organized around intricate rules of propriety. For many Enlightenment thinkers, the body functioned as a vital stage for the performance of virtue. Embodied virtue (ie. virtue enacted through bodily actions and behaviours), created the conditions of what Boon terms "corporeal citizenship.""-- Provided by publisher.


Montreal ; Kingston : McGill-Queen's University Press, [2015]

Physical description

xii, 324 pages ; 24 cm.


Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references and index.


Where to find it

  • LocationStatus
    History of Medicine
    Open shelves

Permanent link



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