Metaphor of Plague

Spring 2015 • HIST 300-001
info | readings

Fred Gibbs (
Mesa Vista Hall, 1077
Office Hours: M 2:30-4; W 9:30-11; almost anytime by appointment


12: Introduction the the course, syllabus, and classroom
14: What is plague? What is metaphor? Why care? Ebola is not god’s wrath
16: Jo N. Hays, “Historians and Epidemics,” 33–56.

Ancient Plagues

21: James Longrigg, “Epidemic, Ideas and Classical Athenian Society,” 21–44.
23: Anthony Kaldellis, “The Literature of Plague and the Anxieties of Piety,” 1-22.

Power of Metaphor

26: Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By, 3-24; 35-40; 46-51.
28: Lakoff. Metaphors, 61-76; 97-105; 139-155.
30: Lakoff, Metaphors, 156-194; 229-237.

Black Death

2: Horrox, “Introduction and Narratives,” 3-34.
4: DUE: Essay 1: Using the concepts and terminology in the Metaphors book, analyze how the other readings about disease and plague we’ve read so far talk about disease. What kinds of metaphors do they use? How does it matter? For further assignment details, consult the Assignment Guidelines.
4: Horrox, “Religious Explanations,” 95-117.

Plague and Memory

9: Horrox, “Scientific Explanations,” 158-185.
11: Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, 1-40. (available via PDF or online).
13: Margaret Healy, “Defoe’s Journal and the English Plague Writing Tradition,” 25–44.

Early Modern Syphilis (A New Plague?)

16: Arrizabalaga and French, “Coping with the French Disease,” 248-79.
18: Guy Poirier, “A Contagion at the Source of Discourse on Sexualities: Syphilis during the French Renaissance,” 157-174.

Early Modern Plague

23: Colin Jones, “Plague and Its Metaphors in Early Modern France,” 97–112.
25: Jones, “Plague and Its Metaphors,” 112-127.
27: Roger D. Lund, “Infectious Wit: Metaphor, Atheism and the Plague in Eighteenth-Century London,” 45–64.
27: DUE: Essay on premoden disease

Modern Syphilis

2: Megan Vaughan, “Syphilis in Colonial East and Central Africa: The Social Construction of an Epidemic,” 269-302.
4: Allan M. Brandt, “The syphilis epidemic and its relation to AIDS,” 375-380.
6: John Parascandola, “Quarantining Women: Venereal Disease Rapid Treatment Centers in World War II America,” 431–59.


Modern Plague

16: Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, “Plague Panic and Epidemic Politics in India, 1846-1914,” 203-240.
18: Susan Craddock, City of Plagues, 61-102.

23: Andrew Cunningham, “Transforming Plague,” 209-244.
25: Elisabeth Carniel, “Plague Today,” 115–22.
27: Daniel Antoine, “The Archaeology of ‘Plague,’” 101–14; Stephanie Haensch et al., “Distinct Clones of Yersinia Pestis Caused the Black Death,” 1-8.

The White Plague (TB)

30: OPTIONAL ESSAY DUE: What are the potential advantages of historical archeology compared to traditional history? What are the tensions between traditional history and historical archeology? Given how the cultural complexities and social constructions of plague, is an archelogical approach too reductive to be useful?
30: Christian W. McMillen, “‘The Red Man and the White Plague’: Rethinking Race, Tuberculosis, and American Indians, Ca. 1890–1950,” 608–45.
1: Nancy Owen Lewis, “High and Dry in New Mexico: Turberculosis and the Politics of Health,” 129–66.
3: Return of the ‘White Plague’: Fears over the Rise of ‘Incurable’ TB. How should we analyze this media report in light of previous readings on construction of disease?

1918 Influenza

6: Jeffery K. Taubenberger and David M. Morens, “1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics,” 69–79.
8: Visit Follow their search strategies and report on how the flu pandemic is discussed.
10: Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 1-36.


13: Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 37-87.

Communicating Plague

20: ESSAY #3 DUE: How does this course help you better analyze writing about disease? Remember to 1) BE SPECIFIC; 2) Reference as many readings as possible with specific citations; 3) Hopefully you can’t fit everything you’ve learned into two pages (but that’s the limit); choose carefully what you think is most important! 4) Don’t be banal—so don’t say: “Metaphors shape the way we think of disease.” That’s too obvious. Give examples of how/when/where this has been true, and how it still matters (or doesn’t).
22: Charles L. Briggs, “Pressing Plagues: Mediated Communicability of Epidemics,” 39-59.
24: Margaret Humphreys, “No Safe Place: Disease and Panic in American History,” 845-856.

Modern Plagues

27: Analyzing Plague, Inc. (free video game)
29: Ebola and Black Death ‘Plague’
1: The Obesity Plague and Antibiotics

Moving Forward

All resubmissions due Friday May 8.