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Look Inside Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination

Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: November 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107672802

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Brings new detail and fresh significance to the arguments around tuberculosis and the representations of nineteenth-century experience in fiction
    • Offers new readings of well-known canonical texts by writers such as Dickens, Gaskell and James, while also recovering lesser known texts by critically neglected writers
    • Gives insights into Victorian medical writing and establishes links between the real-life and fictional representation of consumption
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107672802
    • length: 242 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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
    Appendix A. Phthisis mortality
    Appendix B. Medical publications on consumption
    Appendix C. Gender distribution of phthisis.

  • Author

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

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