Illustration for article titled The history of bedwetting

This is the best title for any scholarly paper published in the year 2011: "Urine trouble: a social history of bedwetting and its regulation." Snort!


Here's historian Chris Hurl's abstract, published in the prestigious journal History of the Human Sciences:

Bedwetting has confounded the presumed boundaries of the human body, existing in a fluid space, between the normal and pathological. Its treatment has demanded the application of a wide array of different technologies, each based on a distinct conception of the relationship between the body and personality, human organs and personal conduct. In tracing the social history of bedwetting and its regulation, this article examines the ontological assumptions underpinning the treatment of bedwetting and how they have changed over the past two centuries. Through the analysis of medical journals, newspaper articles and magazine advertisements, different topologies are identified which redefine the boundaries of the human body and its capacities. From 16th-century naturalism, in which the human body is subordinated to a cosmic totality, to the circumscribed space of 19th-century paediatrics and the expansive circuits of behavioural psychology and modern psychoanalysis, the body has become multiplied, differently enacted through the application of diverse technologies. It will be shown how coordinating the messy and divergent conceptions of the human body has posed an endemic problem for the human sciences, and how the enduring tension between object enactment and subject constitution is an expression of modern ‘baroque' subjectivity.


Bonus points for using the phrase "fluid space" in the very first sentence. Though I'm left deeply confused by a couple of things. First, if the article only deals with the past two centuries, why is there such a prominent mention of the 16th century? And second, who calls modern subjectivity "baroque"? Perhaps the same person who thinks that the past two centuries are the 16th and the 17th I suppose.

Plus, I'm still waiting for my definitive history of bedwetting. Who was the very first bedwetter, do you suppose? Julius Caesar?

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