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Palgrave Macmillan

The Smoke of the Soul

Medicine, Physiology and Religion in Early Modern England

ISBN 9781137345592
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

What was the soul? For hundreds of years Christians agreed that it was the essential, immortal core of each individual believer, and of the Christian faith in general. Despite this, there was no agreement on where the soul was, what it was, or how it could be joined to the material body. By focusing on the spirits of blood which were alleged to join body and soul, this book explores the peculiar problems, anxieties, and excitement generated by a zone where spirit met matter, and the earthly the divine. It shows how pious but rigorous Christians such as John Donne and Walter Raleigh expressed their dissatisfaction with existing theories of body-soul integration; how prone the soul was to being materialised; and how an increasingly scientific medical culture hunted the material aspects of the soul out of the human body.

Richard Sugg is Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at the University of Durham, UK. He is the author of John Donne (2007), Murder After Death (2007), Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires (2011), and The Secret History of the Soul (2013). He has published and presented his work via national and international newspapers, radio and television. He is currently writing a two volume history of vampirism, Faces of the Vampire.

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. The Physiology of the Soul
2. The Soul in Three Dimensions: Pietro Pomponazzi and Andreas Vesalius
3. Aspiring Souls (I): Tamburlaine the Great
4. Aspiring Souls (II): Doctor Faustus
5. Painful Inquisition: Body-Soul Problems in Early Modern Christianity
6. The Differential Soul: Women, Fools and Personal Identity
7. The Dying Soul (I): Christian Mortalism as Religious Heresy
8. The Dying Soul (II): Mortalism as Literary Fantasy
9. Anatomy and the Rise of the Brain
Conclusion The True Location of the Soul


"An important contribution to the increasingly vibrant study of early modern anatomical practice... excellent, exhaustive and pioneering" — James McNamara, TLS
"This engaging book… examines the identity of the soul between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries… and the author does so by referring to a wide range of texts in a dexterous and skilful way" — Guido Giglioni, Social History of Medicine
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