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How important is the Black Death to a reading of Boccaccio's Decameron?  How is AIDS treated in the contemporary plays of Larry Kramer and William Hoffman?  How have the historical and current outbreaks of contagious disease affectetd the creation of literature, and how has this literature in turn shaped our respone to disease?  What can art hope to achieve in the midst of an epidemic?

In addressing these questions Barbara Fass Leavy studies literary works whose main themes have to do with some form of contagious or pesilential physical disease, and its social or psychological consequences.

The book covers for diseases: bubonic plague, syphilis, the influenza pandemic of 1918, and AIDS.  The authors discussed include Defoe, Chaucer, Poe, Ibsen, Katherine Anne Porter, Hawthorne, and Camus.

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"This is a sensitive, intelligent book -- as with all of Barbara Leavy's work, it is the product of a strong, committed reader."
        Sander L. Gilman

"Ghosts and An Enemy of the People are the two Ibsen plays that figure in Barbara Fass Leavy's substantial and absorbing study of plague as a literary motif."
       Ibsen Society of America

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