New Publication! “Echoing Women from Sarah Parton’s ‘Ruth Hall’: Croup Cough and Sound Intuition in the 19C and Today” in Synapsis

I’m thrilled to share this new piece is out in the world! A sound studies reading of Sarah Parton’s Ruth Hall (1862), reflections on what makes an intuition “sound,” and some details about croup cough in the 19C (it was a death sentence) and today (gone in two days with a steroid prescription). Below is a brief opening excerpt:


My toddler’s cough wakes me in the night — the sound has a quick attack, starting like a bark, and an abrupt end, like a choke — triggering my adrenaline. This gasp in the dark warrants a call to the pediatrician’s office. I rush into his room to get him to sit up and drink some water and listen closely to his raspy breathing. His barking cough continues in fitful bursts like a compulsive hiccup interrupting every breath. I pause for him to heave and wretch but nothing comes — just a startling silence, a temporary suffocation, at the end of the cough. This must be the croup I read about.

In my mind’s eye, I see Ruth’s daughter, little Daisy, dying of croup in her mother’s arms: the poor babe suffocates by the fireside in Sarah Parton’s Ruth Hall (1862) in a chapter gloomily titled, “The Old Doctor Arrives Too Late:”

The strong fire-light fell upon Ruth’s white figure, as she sat, pale and motionless, in the corner, with Daisy on her lap, whose laborious breathing could be distinctly heard in the next room. A dark circle had settled round the child’s mouth and eyes, and its little hands hung helplessly at its side. Dinah was kneeling at the hearth, stirring a fresh mustard paste, with an air which seemed to say, “it is no use, but I must keep on doing something.”

(Hall 49)

Ruth, who has been pacing all night long like a ghost, is attuned to her daughter’s shrill cough and her every sound. That invisible cord that tethers our hearts to our children, whether born of us or adopted, can never be cut.


Read the full article here.

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