Articulating Bodies

BookArticulating Bodies

Articulating Bodies

The Narrative Form of Disability and Illness in Victorian Fiction

Representations: Health, Disability, Culture and Society, 8


October 1st, 2019

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Articulating Bodies investigates the contemporaneous developments of Victorian fiction and disability’s medicalization by focusing on the intersection between narrative form and body. The book examines texts from across the century, from Frederic Shoberl’s 1833 English translation of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” (1893), covering genres that typically relied upon disabled or diseased characters. By tracing the patterns of focalization and narrative structure across six decades of the nineteenth century and across six genres, Articulating Bodies demonstrates that throughout the Victorian era, authors of fiction used narrative form as well as narrative theme to negotiate how to categorize bodies, both constructing and questioning the boundary dividing normalcy from abnormality. As fiction’s form developed from the massive hybrid novels of the early decades of the nineteenth century to the case-study length of fin-de-siècle mysteries, disability became increasingly medicalized, moving from the position of spectacle to specimen.


'Illuminating and persuasive, this is a compelling and cohesive study of disability in Victorian fiction.'
Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Plymouth

'The narratological concept of focalization does double-duty as an optical concept [...] and Hingston’s emphasis on the role of perception in determining bodily normativity or deviance is a welcome approach, expanding our conception of disability outwards from solely a discursive category to a broader perceptual and even phenomenological concept, even in a book fundamentally concerned with textuality. The kind of detailed attention to form - not solely as a textual feature but also a bodily one -  in which this book engages is exemplary for future studies of disability in a literary critical context.'Natalie Prizel, Victorian Studies

Author Information

Kylee-Anne Hingston is a Lecturer in English at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Text as Body and Body as Text: How Literary Form Textually Creates the Body11
Negotiating Victorian Disability22
I. Grotesque Bodies: Hybridity and Focalization in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris29
Hybridity, Disability, and the ‘Modern’ Novel33
Focalization: Externally Authoritative or Internally Ambiguous39
Reading Quasimodo: Interpretation or Empathy?47
II. Social Bodies: Dickens and the Disabled Narrator in Bleak House59
Externally Focalizing on the Social Body61
Smallpox and the Esther Industry: Critical Readings of Esther’s Facial Scarring65
Focalization, Form, and the Fractured Self70
‘Shape Structures Story’: The Disabled Narrator78
III. Sensing Bodies: Negotiating the Body and Identity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone87
The ‘Physiological Telegraph’: Genre, Form, and the Body in Aurora Floyd92
Reading Disability and Reading Health99
Destabilizing Normalcy: Focalization, Identity, and the Body in The Moonstone106
Destabilizing Normalcy at the Shivering Sand112
Linearity and Narrative Control of Deviance116
IV. Sanctified Bodies: Christian Theology and Disability in Ellice Hopkins’s Rose Turquand and Charlotte Yonge’s The Pillars of the House119
Individual Incarnation and the Single-Focused Narrative: Disability and Illness in Rose Turquand121
Focalization and the Collective Body127
Communal Incarnation and the Multiple-Focus Narrative: Disability and Illness in The Pillars of the House133
Intellectual Disability, Focalization, and Closure141
V. Fairy-Tale Bodies: Prostheses and Narrative Perspective in Dinah Mulock Craik’s The Little Lame Prince149
Prostheticizing Maturity153
Embodied Narrator and Readers159
Focalization and Prosthesis165
VI. Mysterious Bodies: Solving and De-Solving Disability in the Fin-de-Siècle Mystery171
Constructing the Disabled Object: The Scientific Gaze in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde174
Diagnosing Hyde177
Narrative Prosthesis and the Gothic Open Ending180
Detecting Disability: Narrative Structure and Reading the Body in ‘The Crooked Man’185
Detective Fiction’s Drive towards Closure and Cure187
Focalizing Disability’s Shifting Signification190
Works Cited207