My Cotton Mather article is officially published! I couldn’t afford open access, but Friday was the online publication date! I have worked on this article for four years, and am so grateful to the many people who have read drafts, provided feedback, and helped me hone and clarify my argument. Thank you, of course, to Kristina Bross for supporting this project from its inception; to Kelly Wisecup for looking at SO SO SO many drafts; to Arielle McKee and the Purdue EARG crew for giving comments; and to Reiner Smolinski and the anonymous readers and editors at EAL and the Journal of Medical Humanities. Your feedback was invariably thoughtful and constructive.
This essay provides a literary history of the restitution narrative in colonial New England; using Cotton Mather’s The Angel of Bethesda (1724), I argue that Puritan medical texts employ theological and medical epistemologies to enable patient agency. In these texts, individuals must be involved in reforming the sinful behaviors that they believed caused their conditions, and must also engage in a form of public health by sharing their stories so that others may avoid future sins—and therefore illnesses. Ultimately, recognizing how restitution has been historically defined allows for alternate understandings of recovery that place patients at the center.