Consumptive Chic: A Social Analysis

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Threads of the historicization perpetuated by Lawlor and Suzuki are further emphasized by Carolyn Day, in her book Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease. The historical narrative presented by Day is similar to Lawlor and Suzuki in regards to her attention to the social and cultural framing of Consumption during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In her cultural framing of Consumption as a Romantic disease, Day agrees with Lawlor and Suzuki, in suggesting that a peak in the epidemic cycles of Consumption and the development of the cult of delicacy and sensibility contributed to the conception of Consumption during this period, as it forced society to integrate the pervasive disease into the Romantic ideological framework …show more content…
Socially, Consumption was constructed to be a disease that “had the ability to create or enhance beauty” and was an identified of a “sensitive nature” . This social construction, according to Day, directly applied to social interpretations of femininity and what women ought to look like and act like. Romantic concepts of sensibility, respectability, beauty, and otherworldly sublimity, were attached to ideas of the feminine form, creating correlations between them and epidemiological Consumptive characteristics, like thinness and a pale complexion . These social conceptions of Consumption were medically reinforced by the physicians of the day, who determined the correlation epidemiological markers of illness and positive romantic feminine traits to be quantifiable true. Moreover, physicians even considered physical traits of beauty or slightness as potential markers for susceptibility for Consumption, further entangling the two conceptions of illness and physical traits until they were interchangeable . Day asserts that this medical and social correlation between beauty and Consumption is the predominant reason why Consumption became the model for beauty …show more content…
In several letters during her teenaged years, Dickenson states that she is in poor health due to a severe cough that did not abate for many weeks . Hirschhorn even identifies a period of urgency within her letters, where she is continually refilling a prescription for cough medication Extrapolating from the actual text, Hirschhorn assumes that for a period, Dickenson’s Tuberculosis was in an acute state causing her to require a significant amount of medication. Over the course of many letters, Hirschhorn identifies that Dickenson’s urgency abates signaling a form of remission taking place, all of this is interpreted without the explicit mentioning of illness patterns on the part of Dickenson

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