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Epidemics In America Essay

854 words - 4 pages

Epidemics in America

Since the proclamation by John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, that America should view herself as a "city upon a hill", Americans have strived to create a utopian society (Brinkley, 40). Winthrop viewed America as God's country, a place where the troubles of Europe and the rest of the world would not be repeated. This ideal is still valued by American society, yet it has prevented Americans from accepting the notion that an epidemic could strike their own country. Epidemics in the Modern World by Joann P. Krieg examines American society's reaction to the outbreak of epidemics in this country. Krieg threads the theme of American ...view middle of the document...

Krieg also enlightens the reader to debates over the causes of the epidemics, and how different Americans responded to the epidmeics. To further elucidate the prevalence of American Romanticism, Krieg steps into the literary world to show the limited and nonspecific writings about American epidemics.

Krieg's literary expertise comes into focus as she explores the limited American writing pertaining to the outbreak of epidemics. Again Krieg ties the notion of American Romanticism to authors who did not want to destroy the ideal of utopian America. While this research is extensive, interesting, and the most original part of the work, it strays into long plot synopses that have little to do with epidemics at all. I was interested to find out that Henry David Thoreau had TB, and much of Walden contains references to his condition, but largely I felt that these sections of the work were too lengthy.

Krieg's work is relevant to our studies of disease and discrimination for several reasons. Obviously, American Romanticism has prevented the swift care for victims of these epidemics, which caused a higher death toll and a higher proliferation of the disease. Krieg also shows how political forces can limit the influx of new medicinal techniques. For example, a rebellion against inoculation led by Benjamin Franklin occurred in Boston during the smallpox epidemic. Revolutionaries such as Franklin were hoping to destroy the power and credibility of the clergy, led by the discoverer of the inoculation techniques, Cotton Mather. Also, since these diseases often attacked the marginal members of society (poor, blacks, gays), and cures were...

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