Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: Literature

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…

Mrs. Skewton's Bath Chair.jpg
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…

Celia Retiring.jpg
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…

1900 Glass Eye.jpg
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…

wordsworth.jpg
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…

Signora Neroni.jpg
Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers (1857), the second novel in his “Chronicles of Barsetshire” series, details the public ecclesiastic conflicts between the newly powerful Evangelicals of the Church and the reigning Tory conservatives.…

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…

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…
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