History

Chapter one engages with the modification and legibility of the body, focussing on the face, and introduces the special role of the nose in early modern culture. It examines surgical and prosthetic responses to facial injuries as a test to the limits of body work in early modern Britain. The chapter draws on sociological critiques of passing and capital to examine these anxieties, and their effects on the nose. Popular texts show a distinct concern for individuals’ abilities to pass as members of socially superior groups by disguising their bodies in significant ways. Women bore the brunt of these accusations, as satirists derided them as commercialised bodies, indistinguishable from their beautifying commodities. Fashionable men were mocked by contemporaries for effeminately modifying their bodies in similar ways, but the reconstruction of the nose was instead tied to a mask of healthy masculinity. The chapter therefore examines representations of male body work in contemporary texts, alongside the real-world manipulation of body evidence by men such as Henry Bennet, First Earl of Arlington. This facilitates investigation into the relationship between corporal self-fashioning and masculinity in the early modern period, and its place within transhistorical considerations of masculinity and plastic surgery.

in Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture

This book explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain’s experiences with and responses to the surgical reconstruction of the nose, and the concerns and possibilities raised by the idea of ‘nose transplants’ in this period. Challenging histories of plastic surgery that posit a complete disappearance of Gaspare Tagliacozzi’s reconstructive operation after his death in 1599, the book traces the actual extent of this knowledge within the medical community in order to uncover why such a procedure was anathema to early modern British culture. Medical knowledge of Tagliacozzi’s autograft rhinoplasty was overtaken by a spurious story, widely related in contemporary literature, that the nose would be constructed from flesh purchased from a social inferior, and would die with the vendor. The volume therefore explores this narrative in detail for its role in the procedure’s stigmatisation, its engagement with the doctrine of medical sympathy, and its attempt to commoditise living human flesh. Utilising medical research and book histories alongside literary criticism, the project historicises key modern questions about the commodification and limits of the human body, the impact of popular culture on medical practice, and the ethical connotations of bodily modification as response to stigma.

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Chapter four considers the overwhelmingly dominant popular understanding of Tagliacozzi’s method. The story of the ‘sympathetic snout’ had its roots in Tagliacozzi’s own lifetime, but developed significantly over the seventeenth century in poems, plays, and pseudo-scientific texts before its inclusion in the first book of Samuel Butler’s hit poem, Hudibras, cemented its domination of Tagliacozzi’s legend. This remained the popular image of Tagliacozzi into the early twentieth century: a man who took the ‘flesh’ for his ‘supplemental noses’ from a lower-status man’s ‘bum’. When the allograft donor died, the nose would also putrefy and drop off, through the medical doctrine of sympathy. The chapter therefore positions this narrative in the history of transplantation. Sympathy had always been a controversial doctrine, but in the early eighteenth century it was increasingly relegated to quackery. The sympathetic snout proved a surprisingly persistent and flexible metaphor up to the early twentieth century, satirising notions of personal and political autonomy, and producing troubling echoes for sympathy as an important interpersonal emotion.

in Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture

Chapter two details the medical approach to nose surgery in published early modern texts. In De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem (1597), Gaspare Tagliacozzi provided a detailed account of how the reconstruction of a damaged or missing nose, lip, or ear could be performed using a skin flap lifted from the patient’s arm, but it was the reconstruction of the nose that really caught the attention of early modern Europe. Although he had not invented the procedure, Tagliacozzi was the first to describe it in detail to European surgeons and became synonymous with the operation. The chapter explores the grounds on which Tagliacozzi was criticised by contemporaries like Ambroise Paré, and his and his supporters’ defensive strategies, especially the careful selection of patient narratives that emphasised masculine military endeavour and feminine virtue. It subsequently maps how the procedure and its historiography were reported into the nineteenth century, when the ‘Indian method’ of forehead-flap rhinoplasty was employed by surgeons such as Joseph Constantine Carpue, and thence through Britain, Europe, America, and Australia. It shows how Tagliacozzi’s operation continued to inform facial surgery, prompting a renaissance in Tagliacozzi’s reputation within nineteenth-century science and shaping the early historiography of plastic surgery.

in Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture
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The Conclusion argues that despite material improvements in both work and home life during the twentieth century, societal changes and a growing popular discourse of stress meant that by its end, people regularly interpreted their everyday woes as stress. The language and terminology deployed to describe what is now understood as stress, were historicised according to cultural and social acceptability and thus physical explanations and stoicism were privileged for much of the century. The chapter argues that after the Second World War, thanks to increasing education, affluence and consumerism, people began to understand and deal with their everyday experiences of work and domestic life differently, so that such experiences became both problematised and the concept of stress popularised. Overall, it argues that stress was and is a mutable concept, its flexibility ensuring both conceptual longevity and, by the end of the century, its apparent ubiquity.

in Feeling the strain
Popular and personal discourse in the 1960s and 1970s

This chapter positions the 1970s as a transition period before stress became normalised in British society. Focusing on the 1960s and 1970s it argues that the public, popular discourse of stress increasingly revealed in newspaper reporting, shifted from perceiving workplace stress as a problem of the managerial class to applying the label of stress to almost anyone at any life stage in any circumstances. However, examination of three case studies of individual accounts of work stress in the early 1970s argues for the relatively limited impact of this public discourse on individual understanding and interpretation of symptoms of stress, among sufferers, colleagues and families alike. It argues that such accounts persisted in privileging physical symptoms and that attitudes towards the stressed continued to focus on the individual’s weakness rather than the contribution of their environmental or social context.

in Feeling the strain
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A cultural history of stress in twentieth-century Britain

Drawing on a wealth of sources including self-help books, Mass Observation diaries and directives, oral history interviews, social science research and popular culture, Feeling the strain examines why stress became the ubiquitous explanation for a range of everyday ills by the end of the twentieth century in Britain. It explores the popular, vernacular discourse of nerves and stress to uncover how ordinary people understood, explained and coped with the pressures and strains of daily life and illuminates not only how stress was known, but the ways in which that knowledge was produced.

By focusing on contemporary popular understandings, it reveals continuity of ideas about work, mental health, status, gender and individual weakness, as well as the socio-economic contexts that enabled stress to become the accepted explanation for a wide range of daily experiences. It foregrounds continuities in managing stress and changes in ideas about causation, revealing a vocabulary of ‘nerves’ and ‘nervous disorders’ as precursors to stress but also illustrating the mutability of the stress concept and how its very imprecision gave it utility.

Feeling the strain provides first-hand accounts from sufferers, families and colleagues and offers insight into self-help literature, the meanings of work and changing dynamics of domestic life over the century, delivering a complementary perspective to medical histories of stress and making a significant contribution to histories of everyday life and emotion in Britain during the twentieth century.

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Domestic troubles in post-war Britain

This chapter charts how social changes in housing and gender roles made domestic stress more popularly visible. Initially focused on the wartime case study of Mrs C’s troubled marriage, it examines interpersonal relationships and domestic contestation of time and resources. It argues that growing expectations of privacy and material comfort in the post-war period led to increasing mental distress, particularly when material circumstances did not live up to those expectations. It also contends that the complexities and contradictions of women’s work within the home gave it more prominence as a potential location and cause of stress, particularly within the context of the breakdown of tightly knit, stable communities in the second half of the century. The chapter argues that an increase in the popular perception of stress can be seen in the portrayals of domestic life in popular culture, particularly the New Wave ‘kitchen-sink’ dramas of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

in Feeling the strain
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The book endeavours to answer the question of why stress became ubiquitous in Britain by the end of the twentieth century, and this section introduces and establishes the concept of stress. It examines the existing historiography and context, situating stress within debates about medicalisation, psychologisation and professionalisation as well as the rise of consumer culture and individualism. It introduces the ways in which gender and class governed understanding and explores the acknowledged fluidity and flexibility of the concept and its usefulness to various interests at different times. Explanation of the methodological approach taken and discussion of sources such as Mass Observation and the British Library Sound Archive’s oral history collections are also provided and use of terminology clarified. A brief outline of each of the chapters is given, mapping the chronological structure of the book.

in Feeling the strain
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Civilian nerves in the Second World War

Focusing on Home Front experiences in the Second World War, this chapter contrasts early unsubstantiated government concerns about the psychiatric impact of bombing on the population with the experience of civilian stress that arose largely from the daily strain of wartime living and the specific demands made of workers in a wartime economy. It argues that the high levels of absenteeism that so concerned employers and government, constituted one of the few ways that conscripted women workers had for achieving agency in their disrupted and challenging Home Front domestic lives. Discussion of attempts to mitigate wartime strain, through the development of institutions such as Roffey Park Rehabilitation Centre or the work of organisational Welfare Officers, reveals recognition of employee suffering, but also the very contingent nature of these efforts. Against a backdrop of expected collective wartime stoicism, both reveal assumptions about individual, inherent weakness as the cause of stress.

in Feeling the strain