This book offers a cultural studies pathway into the analysis of contagious disease and epidemic events. It aims to unsettle the clear distinction between the biological and cultural understanding of contagion by exploring how epidemics unfold in medical and literary narratives. The United States of America form the vantage point of this study as it highlights how American exceptionalism and national identity are indelibly tied to the issue of health and disease containment, both as a promise and prerequisite for belonging and participation. This work provides a chronology of crisis moments that is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive but looks at specific nodal points in U.S. history in order to uncover meaningful connections between key themes of American Studies and our shifting understanding of contagion.
Ariane Schröder is a research assistant and lecturer at the American Studies Department of the University of Potsdam, Germany.