Black Spots and Carelessness - Syphilis and Societal Contagion in William Hogarth's Graphic Satire


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University of Guelph


This thesis examines the depiction of syphilis within the major modern moral progresses of eighteenth-century British artist William Hogarth. Specifically, I examine the significance of the black spot to indicate a venereal sore that Hogarth was so apt to include throughout his oeuvre. I argue that Hogarth depicts the pox in a holistic way to highlight the social ills plaguing British society. The objects of analysis to articulate my argument include three of Hogarth’s multi-episodic modern moral progresses: A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress, and Marriage À-la-Mode. By utilizing an intertheoretical approach relating to theories and concepts of care and vulnerability, I analyze how Hogarth portrayed London and by extension Britain as a careless society.



William Hogarth, Syphilis, Venereal Disease, Graphic Satire, Eighteenth Century, Marriage A-la-Mode, A Harlot's Progress, A Rake's Progress, Medicine, Mental Health, Major Modern Moral Progress, Moral Philosophy, Print Culture