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It's Never Just Heart Disease... And Rarely Just Illness

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by

Baylee Roy

on 10 February 2015

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Transcript of It's Never Just Heart Disease... And Rarely Just Illness

"In literature there is no better, no more lyrical, no more perfectly metaphorical illness than heart disease"
-Foster
The heart is not just a pump that keeps us alive, but acts as an archive of our emotions






This then allows the writer to use an illness of the heart as a "shorthand" for a character or as a social metaphor
Why the heart?
Social Metaphor
The Remorseful Day (1999)
Bad love
Loneliness
Cruelty
Disloyalty
Lack of motivation
Cowardice
Pederasty
Baylee Roy
It's Never Just Heart Disease... And Rarely Just Illness
Heart Trouble Symbolism
The disease usually reflects flaws of the character
Socially it can stand for these matters on a larger scale (i.e. social injustice)







This then emphasizes that something is wrong at the "heart" of the issue
It's Rarely Just Illness
Until the 20th century, illness was frightening and mysterious


"Even though knowing how disease is transmitted, we remain largely superstitious. And since Illness is so much a part of life, so too is it apart of literature."
-Foster
There are 4 main principles when using disease in literature......
Not all diseases are created equal
Some diseases in literature have stronger metaphorical meaning than others

Ex) Cholera vs. Tuberculosis
It should be picturesque
Ex) Tuberculosis has a bizarre beauty the skin becomes translucent and the eye sockets become dark; representing martyr in medieval paintings
It should be mysterious in origin
Ex) Tuberculosis swept through many people (in Victorian era) usually whole families when nursing sick ones
It should have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities
Ex) Smallpox vs Tuberculosis
This overrides all the other principles ,because a strong metaphor can prompt an author to bring an otherwise objectionable illness into work
Example: AIDS
Every age has its own disease; ours is AIDS
Picturesque?
No, but it shares the same wasting away as TB
Mysterious?
Yes, in the way that it first showed up and now when it mutates in infinite ways to prevent treatment
Symbolic?
Yes, known as the "mother lode of symbol" in its tendency to lie dormant, turning its victims into unknown carriers; offering strong metaphoric possibilities. (tragedy, despair but also courage resilience and passion)
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