Pain, suffering and anesthesia in the Romantic Period

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Hermione de Almeida - Committee Chair


The interconnections between biological science and clinical medicine on the one hand, and the poetry and prose of the Romantic Period on the other were studied with a view to developing a better understanding of the marked changes in attitudes towards pain and suffering from both medical and literary standpoints noted in this era. A key observation was the finding that the attention to individuality by the Romantic poets, essayists, and philosophers was crucial to preparing the way for a change in clinical medicine designed to relieve pain and suffering and to prevent it where possible. These thoughts and emotions of compassion and interest in the ordinary, common man of the Romantics were a necessary prelude to changes in clinical medicine and to efforts to relieve pain and suffering. A consequence of importance was the production of an environment in which the idea of pain prevention, especially during surgical therapeutic intervention by anesthesia could be accepted. It was this change produced by Romantic concepts of attention to the individual which made possible a radical improvement in the lot of ordinary people and placed, for the first time, a valued premium on the avoidance of pain, which in turn made anesthesia and surgical therapy a reality for human betterment. Anesthesia and analgesia are the medical counterparts of poetic love and compassion for the sufferer.


Literature, English

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