Articulating Bodies: The Narrative Form of Disability and Disease in Victorian Fiction




Hingston, Kylee-Anne

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Victorians frequently conflated body and text by using terms of medical diagnosis to talk about literature and, in turn, literary terms to talk about the body. In light of this conflation, this dissertation focuses on the intersection between narrative form and disability in nineteenth-century fiction and interrogates how the shape of Victorian fiction both informed and reflected the era’s developing notions of disability. Examining this intersection of body and text in several genres and across seven decades, from Frederic Shoberl’s 1832 English translation of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” (1893) from the Sherlock Holmes series, I show how the structural forms of these works reveal that disability’s conceptualization during the Victorian era was frequently dialogic, incongruously understood as both deviant and commonplace. My research thus contributes to our understanding of disability’s complex development as a concept, one that did not immediately or irrevocably marginalize people, but rather struggled to negotiate the limits, capabilities, and meanings of bodies in a rapidly changing culture.



Victorian literature, narrative prosthesis, narratology, Victorian fiction, disability, illness, Victorian novels