Don James McLaughlin on Early American Rabies Narratives

Tuesday, February 26 @ 3:30-5:00pm in AUST 217.

“Infection in the Sentence Breeds: Toward a Literary History of Emotions in Early American Rabies Narratives”

A talk given by Don James McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of English, University of Tulsa.

Until the late 1800s, the common name for rabies among English speakers was hydro-phobia. Transliterated from the Greek, the term was used to designate a dread of liquids, prompted by difficulties in swallowing—a symptom doctors considered the most familiar form the disease took. However, by the late 1700s a diagnostic twist had taken effect: many physicians agreed that one could acquire hydrophobia without being bitten. Doctors called this subspecies “spontaneous hydrophobia.” This talk explores how phobia attained cultural familiarity as a diagnostic in the early national and antebellum periods of the U.S. in dialogue with the literature documenting the phenomenon of spontaneous rabies.

This talk is sponsored by American Studies and the Department of English