Bodily Metaphors: The Plague and its Carriers
Veur, L. van der
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This thesis focuses on a number of modern and contemporary plague novels as a prism through which to analyze the use of the plague (and the concept of contagion more generally) as a metaphor for social problems, such as industrialization, fascism, terrorism and nationalism, and migration. The central question is how and to what extent literary texts about the plague make visible and critique the use of “illness as metaphor”. The primary texts selected, Hermann Hesse’s Narziß und Goldmund, Albert Camus’ The Plague, Frank Herbert’s The White Plague, and Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba, span almost an entire century of plague writing and illuminate different aspects of modern/globalized society that have been and still are being framed in terms of infectious disease, epidemics, and contagion. The theoretical framework brings literary studies together with the medical humanities and concepts from migration studies. The thesis provides an overview of the history of plague writing and investigates the relationship between illness and literature more generally.