Vectors of Dissent

Cristobal Silva

in Miraculous Plagues

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199743476
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896868 | DOI:
Vectors of Dissent

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This chapter examines the epistemological and linguistic stakes of the Antinomian controversy to uncover the representational practices of epidemiology in political and theological contexts. After charting the circulation of medical knowledge in Massachusetts Bay by following the figure of a male physician like Samuel Fuller (who helped shape New England’s Congregational Way), the chapter examines representations of Anne Hutchinson. Because Hutchinson’s gender prevented her from having the requisite political standing to be charged with sedition (as her male counterparts were), her civil and church trials were prosecuted on the assumption that she had overstepped the social bounds of her gender. Consistent with representations of Antinomianism as a contagious infection, the fascination with Hutchinson’s work as a nurse and midwife betrays anxiety about the position of women in the colony, and figures traditional feminine activities as potentially hazardous to the community. Here, epidemiological rhetoric functions to police specific behaviors. It serves to define and regulate female activities as pathological, and to represent a fundamentally healthy “orthodox” (and male) core in the community.

Keywords: Anne Hutchinson; John Winthrop; Samuel Fuller; John Wheelwright; John Cotton; Antinomian controversy; Cindy Patton; gender; monstrous birth; congregationalism

Chapter.  17357 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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