A panel presentation with David Paul Nord, Sarah Schuetze, and Kelly Wisecup
The 24-hour news cycle and the consumption of an endless variety of media seems to have reached its apex in recent months with COVID-19.The perpetual barrage of articles, memes, and debates taking place in both traditional and social media outlets—as well as consumers’ seeming inability to turn away from it—has led to the coining of a new term: “doomscrolling.” But before instant communication and digital technology made doomscrolling possible, how did people get information about epidemics and pandemics? Who was providing that information, for what purposes, and in what print mediums? Who had access to these resources? How did people respond to them? In this panel presentation and discussion, three scholars will discuss case studies spanning 150 years examining the print culture surrounding epidemics and pandemics in pre-twentieth-century America. From diphtheria to yellow fever to cholera, from medical practitioners to Indigenous writers to ordinary citizens, these case studies provoke thoughtful insights into the American past and present relationship with the spread of disease.