Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 211 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Richard Barney

Committee Members

Kir Kuiken, James Lilley


Austen, biopolitics, immunity, Shelley, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Medicine, Literature and medicine, English literature, Authors, English

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine


In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner began vaccinating individuals against small pox by using matter from the pustules of the cow pox. Though extremely controversial because of its discomforting mixture of animal and human, by the end of the Romantic period, vaccination was celebrated as the safest way to immunize the British population. Through the practice of vaccination, Britain found a way to save its body politic from a destructive epidemic while affirming the strong connection between individual health and collective well-being that writers of the period like Mary Wollstonecraft, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley recognized in their works. From the beginning then, medical immunity was inherently connected to politics; at the same time that Jenner was experimenting with vaccination, writers were debating over the most effective way to stifle the "jacobin influenza" and the "French malady," the contagious revolutionary ideas migrating to England from France.