Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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blind beggar.jpg
When Arthur Symons (1865-1945) published his sonnet “The Blind Beggar” in 1892, he added to an already large body of literature that links the experience of visual disability with begging. Noteworthy among texts from the period that…

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Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son (1846–1848) attests to his career-long interest in chair-bound characters[1]—characters who, because of illness, injury, or egotism, are confined or confine themselves to a “wheeled chair” (alternately…

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Anthony Trollope's The Bertrams (1859) is a rare example of a nineteenth-century novel that depicts a one-eyed female character. Whereas male characters that have missing eyes appear frequently elsewhere in nineteenth-century British…

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Published in 1904, H. G. Wells’s novel The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth is a tale that depicts ocular prosthesis at its most effective: the minor character Mr. Skinner is only revealed as an artificial eye user after his death, where…

little lame prince.jpg
Dinah Mulock Craik’s Victorian fairytale The Little Lame Prince and His Travelling Cloak (1874) tells the story of Prince Dolor, whose legs are disabled after a nurse drops him at his christening. Following the death of his father, the king of…

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William Wordsworth’s (1770-1850) poetry contains several interesting and largely unexplored representations of disability.  One familiar pattern, seen in “Resolution and Independence” (1807) has the speaker of Wordsworth’s poem encountering…

Christmas Carol Want and Ignorance.jpg
One of the most recognizable characters in Victorian fiction, “Tiny Tim” Cratchit reappears each Christmas in radioplays, television, stage, and film. Through these cultural reproductions, Tim has come to represent yuletide charity and the…

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The second poem in Amy Levy’s second published collection attests to her longstanding interest in mental illness. As a fin-de-siècle poet, essayist, and novelist, Levy (1861-1889) was one of the most prominent female voices for the significance of…

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A Noble Life (1866) is Dinah Mulock Craik’s second novel to feature a disabled protagonist. It resembles her earlier novel, Olive (1850) in representing disability as a spiritually uplifting and morally improving experience, which renders the…

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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