The late Roy Porter was professor in the social history of medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London.
FLESH IN THE AGE OF REASON
How did we come to a modern understanding of our bodies and souls? What were the breakthroughs that allowed human beings to see themselves in a new light?
Starting with the revolutionary ideas of the Renaissance that challenged the sense of the body as a corrupt vessel for the soul, Roy Porter goes on to chart how — through figures as diverse as Locke, Swift, Johnson, and Gibbon — ideas about medicine, politics, and religion fundamentally changed notions of self. He shows how the body moved center stage in the eighteenth century, writing brilliantly on the ways in which men and women flaunted, decorated, tanned, and dieted themselves: activities that we find familiar but that a Puritan divine would have considered Satanic. And Porter explores how, at the end of the century, the human soul took on a new significance in the works of Godwin, Blake, and Byron.