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By Alanna Skuse

This publication is open entry below a CC-BY licence. This e-book takes the 1st in-depth examine how humans thought of, clinically determined and handled melanoma within the early smooth interval, analyzing resourceful literature, clinical texts and private accounts.

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Extra info for Constructions of Cancer in Early Modern England: Ravenous Natures

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Thus, the often confusing language of cancer consistently returned to a single image, that of a biting creature; the symptoms of What Was Cancer? 39 the disease were collected into one creature, the crab, and discussions of cause overwhelmingly offered a humoral explanation. Those unifying urges could only do so much, and anxieties about the un-knowability of this subject consistently resurfaced. Nonetheless, the tone and content of these primary texts has shown that cancer was a disease understood through shaping discourses about its actions and characteristics rather than by the means, now more familiar to us, of a pathology based on its cellular and chemical properties.

It is to be noted, however, that my argument for cancers as linked to sexspecific traits does not preclude a degree of continuity between male and female states. 6 Notably, however, men occupied most of this range. Women, argues Paster, were confined en masse to the ‘cold and wet’ end of the humoral spectrum, with any deviance therefrom taken as abnormal or pathological. Building upon the theme of ‘gendered’ illness as confirming sexual dimorphism, this chapter views certain aspects of women’s lifestyles as implicated in their physiological and social otherness, and associated susceptibility to cancerous disease.

As Bailey’s multiple dictionary entries indicate, this question is more complex than it may first appear. Early modern medical practitioners used several different terms to refer to cancer. Some of these terms referred exclusively to the kind of malignant tumours and ulcers we might easily recognize as cancerous today. Others were less precise, sometimes denoting cancerous disease, and at other times referring to any variety of festering sore. Identifying the points of convergence and divergence between these terms is an essential first step in reconstructing beliefs about cancerous disease.

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