Lecture by Sophie Vasset: Bath and Beyond: Eighteenth Century British Spas in Medicine and Literature
Dr habil. Sophie Vasset (CNRS / Université de Paris)
Bath and Beyond: Eighteenth-Century British Spas in Medicine and Literature
Friday 18 June 2021
6 pm (online)
Eighteenth-century British spas are often seen through the prism of Bath as a Georgian city, represented by urban innovations and pseudo-Austenian scenes of sensibility. Leisure, more than health, and even more than disease, has often coloured the representations of eighteenth-century spas. As many scholars from “The European Spa” project contend, eighteenth-century spas have much more to say about medicine, popular use, self-care, chronic disease, alternative modes of sociability and political issues than the sole leisurely tales of the Georgian elite (even amongst them, disease, pain and relief were central to the interest in mineral waters).
In the major and medium spa towns of Britain, leisure, gambling, sports and sociability were triggered by primarily health concerns, severe diseases, long histories of pain and recurrent medical trust in the water treatment. In most of the minor spa towns –more than 200 in Britain in the long 18th century –there was hardly any leisure but the search for a better health, and the long-term reminiscence, for some of the wells and springs, of religious rituals and thaumaturgic waters. This presentation will examine the murkier and ambivalent representations of British spas in the eighteenth century, focusing on medical, literary and religious discourse on mineral waters.
Sophie Vasset is an Assistant Professor of British Studies at Université de Paris (LARCA). She is currently on research leave at IHRIM (Université Clermont-Auvergne) to finish her book on mineral waters entitled: Murky Waters: British spas in eighteenth-century literature and medicine.
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Thank you for joining us for the ‘European Spa’ / ‘Global Travel Cultures’ online seminars this spring! While this is our last meeting before the summer break, new talks are in the stage of planning for the autumn of 2021. We will inform you in due time.