This introduction gives an overview of recent scholarship in Romanticism and the medical humanities. It argues that medical humanists are indebted to a Romantic belief that literature cures by making people whole again—what this book calls therapeutic holism. After critiquing therapeutic holism for its limiting assumptions about selfhood and literature’s powers, the introduction offers an alternative in palliative poetics, a model for literary therapy grounded in Romantic writers’ affinity to Georgian medical ethics. It shows how this focus on ethics reorients Romantic scholarship on literature and medicine, which has mostly restricted its definition of medicine to medical science. Finally, this introduction outlines the book’s six chapters: two introductory chapters on the intellectual history of therapeutic holism and four single-author illustrations of palliative poetics.
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