The cultural transition from the romantic era of consumption to the era of tuberculosis derived not only from the germ theory of disease and the triumph of contagionism over anticontagionism, but also from political considerations. Worries over population decline and growing working-class militancy were aggravated by what now appeared to be a social disease, or a disease of poverty. One of the strategies deployed against the disease was the sanatorium, an institution which was capable both of instructing patients in contagionism and in imposing a practical quarantine. Although the development of effective chemotherapy in the 1940s raised hopes that tuberculosis might be globally eradicated, these have unfortunately proven to be overly optimistic. Factors such as poverty and population displacement continue to favor the disease's spread today, particularly in the Third World.
Reading assignment: Barnes, The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in France
This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.