Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination

Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination

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Tuberculosis was a widespread and deadly disease which devastated the British population in the nineteenth century: consequently it also had a huge impact upon public consciousness. This text explores the representations of tuberculosis in nineteenth-century literature and culture. Fears about gender roles, degeneration, national efficiency and sexual transgression all play their part in the portrayal of 'consumption', a disease which encompassed a variety of cultural associations. Through an examination of a range of Victorian texts, from well-known and popular novels by Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell to critically neglected works by Mrs Humphry Ward and Charles Reade, this work reveals the metaphors of illness which surrounded tuberculosis and the ways those metaphors were used in the fiction of the day. The book also contains detailed analysis of the substantial body of writing by nineteenth-century physicians which exists about this disease, and examines the complex relationship between medical 'fact' and literary fiction.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 242 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 13mm | 330g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1 Halftones, unspecified
  • 1107672805
  • 9781107672802
  • 1,165,071

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. Nineteenth-century medical discourse on pulmonary phthisis; 2. Consuming the family economy: disease and capitalism in Charles Dickens's Dombey and Son and Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South; 3. The consumptive diathesis and the Victorian invalid in Mrs Humphry Ward's Eleanor; 4. 'There is beauty in woman's decay': the rise of the tubercular aesthetic; 5. Consumption and the Count: the pathological origins of Vampirism and Bram Stoker's Dracula; 6. 'A kind of intellectual advantage': phthisis and masculine identity in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady; Conclusion; Appendix A. Phthisis mortality; Appendix B. Medical publications on consumption; Appendix C. Gender distribution of phthisis.
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Review quote

'Byrne's is a really useful and most enjoyable book - it's carefully argued, connects a deep understanding of the novels with an excellent reading of the cultural, social and economic history of the Victorian era ... Also, it conveys the relevance of literature for the history of medicine in a very positive way. This is a beautiful piece of work in the field of medical humanities which deserves almost universal praise and recognition.' Archiv
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About Katherine Byrne

Katherine Byrne is Lecturer in English at the University of Ulster.
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Rating details

8 ratings
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