Literature and Medicine Publishes Matthew Sivils's Article on 1720s Smallpox Pamphlets
— filed under: Literature
The journal Literature and Medicine recently published Matthew Sivils's article on the pamphlet literature associated with the 1721-1722 Boston Smallpox Inoculation Controversy
Sivils, Matthew Wynn. “Dissecting the Pamphlet Literature of the Boston Smallpox Inoculation Controversy.” Literature and Medicine 29.1 (2011): 39-57.
As a smallpox epidemic wracked 1721 Boston, a debate ensued between those who advocated the still new practice of inoculation and those who believed that the risks of the procedure outweighed the benefits. This article examines three key pamphlets of the Boston smallpox inoculation controversy by three major figures in that debate: Zabdiel Boylston and Cotton Mather who championed inoculation, as well as William Douglass, M.D, who was a staunch anti-inoculationist. These pamphlets employ a range of literary and rhetorical strategies that not only promote opposing views about the practice of inoculation but also about the dissemination of medical knowledge in general. These crucial documents, which stand as enlightening cultural artifacts, reveal the complex persuasive strategies adopted by two groups of medical practitioners at a key moment in the evolution of American medicine.