Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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PrattPainting.jpg
Despite his resistance to the formal study of painting, William Dunlap’s time in Europe would prove critical to the history of American art because it was at West’s studio in London that Dunlap became acquainted with the foremost artists of the…

DunlapSelfPortrait1805.jpg
In these self-portrait miniatures the American painter William Dunlap (1766-1839) depicts the visible sign of his disability: permanent blindness of the right eye resulting from a childhood accident. Dunlap turned his damaged eye away from the viewer…

DaveyMesmerism.jpg
Mesmerism[1] was the term used by Victorians for the procedure during which the practitioner, or mesmerist, would fix his or her (usually his) gaze on a subject or make passes over their body in order to treat and even cure disabilities and illnesses…

BlindTom2.png
Thomas Greene Wiggins, better known as “Blind Tom,” was an autistic savant with an encyclopedic memory. He is known for his mind-boggling ability to replicate music and other sounds after only one hearing. Wiggins was born into slavery in…

Agnew_RC_1889.jpg
In 1890, a 36” x 24” painting depicting Queen Victoria communicating with a deaf woman in front of a cozy hearth, was exhibited at the Edinburgh Exhibition. Titled “Royal Condescension,” this was the second of a series painted by the amateur…

UglyFaceClub-1806Broadside.jpg
Ugly Clubs reflect changing notions of deformity through the long nineteenth century, before and beyond. Ugly Clubs arose from fictional forebears in early eighteenth-century satirical periodicals in Britain, including Ned Ward’s The Secret History…

Jekyll-mansfield.jpg
Robert Lois Stevenson’s “shilling-shocker” novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), has so thoroughly become a part of our cultural consciousness that, though not all people have read the tale, most are familiar with its title…

Ruskin Art Criticism.jpg
As theories of degeneracy[1] gained currency in the latter part of the nineteenth century, literary critics increasingly used rhetoric of pathology (that is, of health and sickness) to discuss authors and their works.[2] As Arata explains, critics…

Bleak House Sharpshooters.jpg
While many of Charles Dickens’s novels and nonfiction works depicted people with disabilities, his novel Bleak House, published serially over 1852-1853 and in volume form in 1853, is veritably full of characters with bodies and minds deemed…

BeckerLibrary_RedConverstionTube.jpg
A conversation tube is a non-electric, acoustic device designed to amplify sounds for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals and is constructed of a flexible tube with a mouthpiece at one end and an ear piece at the other. The device dates to the…
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