Dread Disease Cancer and Modern American Culture

ISBN-10: 0674216261
ISBN-13: 9780674216266
Edition: 1987
List price: $43.50 Buy it from $3.00
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Description: Cancer is that "loathsome beast, which seized upon the breast, drove its long claws into the surrounding tissues, derived its sustenance by sucking out the juices of its victims, and never even relaxed its hold in death," a turn-of-the-century  More...

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Book details

List price: $43.50
Copyright year: 1987
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 1/1/1989
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 416
Size: 6.50" wide x 9.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.298
Language: English

Cancer is that "loathsome beast, which seized upon the breast, drove its long claws into the surrounding tissues, derived its sustenance by sucking out the juices of its victims, and never even relaxed its hold in death," a turn-of-the-century physician recorded. Even today cancer affects the popular imagination with dread. In a subtle and penetrating cultural history, James Patterson examines reactions to the disease through a century of American life.The modern American preoccupation with cancer was apparent during the widely publicized illness and death from that ailment of Ulysses S. Grant in 1885. Awareness of the disease soon figured heavily in the public consciousness, and individual reactions to it continue to reveal broader tensions within American society. Patterson examines responses to cancer by researchers and physicians, quacks and faith healers, by the multitude who have heard sensational media reports of "cures," as well as by many who have had firsthand experiences with the disease.Optimistic attitudes of many experts contrast sharply with the skepticism of large segments of the population--often the less wealthy and the less educated--that reject the claims of medical science and resist the advice or, some argue, the paternalistic dictates of the government-supported cancer research establishment.Expanding expectations of a cure from a confident medical profession; the rise of a government-supported Cancer Establishment managing a large research empire; the emergence of a "cancer counterculture"; a new emphasis on prevention through control of the environment and the self; and the private fears and pessimism of millions of Americans form a telling history of American social patterns. Whether the issue is smoking, pollution, or regular checkups, attitudes toward cancer reflect more general views on medicine, public policy, and illness, as well as on death and dying. This century has witnessed both a biomedical revolution and a vastly increased role of the state in the private lives of citizens; but not everyone has bought the medical package, and many have little faith in government intervention.Readers interested in the cultural dimensions of science and medicine as well as historians, sociologists, and political scientists will be enlightened and challenged by The Dread Disease.

James T. Patterson is an American historian, and Ford Foundation Professor of History emeritus at Brown University. He wrote "Grand Expectations: the United States, 1945-1974," which received the 1997 Bancroft Prize in American history. (The Bancroft prize is one of the most prestigious honors a book of history can received and was established at Columbia University in 1948. It's considered to be on par with the Pulitzer Prize because an anonymous jury of peers judges it.) "Grand Expectations" is an interpretation of the explosive growth, high expectations and unusual optimism that Americans experienced after World War II that went into the 1960's. It follows the social, economic and cultural trends, and foreign policy issues, which became less optimistic after the assassinations, the Vietnam War and Watergate.

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue: The Travail of General Grant
Cancerphobia in the Late Nineteenth Century
The Rise of the Doctors
The Alliance against Cancer
The Wilderness Years
Government Joins the Fight
Hymns to Science and Prayers to God
The Research Explosion
Smoking and Cancer
Popular Fears, Official Dreams
The Alliance under Siege
More Promises, More Fears
Bibliographic Note
Notes
Index

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