“The Range of Our Vision”: Self, Surveillance, and Life in the Sickroom

Maria H. Frawley

in Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780226261201
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226261225 | DOI:
“The Range of Our Vision”: Self, Surveillance, and Life in the Sickroom

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Deemphasizing the sickroom's status as spiritual sanctuary, and downplaying (but not entirely eradicating) the ethereal nature of the invalid, invalid authors might be said to have domesticated invalidism. In a range of ways, which this chapter discusses, their inquiries into the invalid's mind, habits of self-contemplation, and distinctive subjectivity simultaneously mobilized a critique of key assumptions underpinning that very domesticity. Charles Lamb's “The Convalescent”, Harriet Martineau's Life in the Sick-Room, and several essays from later in the nineteenth century provide particularly detailed and compelling models, but to appreciate the ways that these very different works represented the invalid's mind, one needs to situate them within the broader canvas of “life in the sickroom” writing. For many invalid authors, the subject of life in the sickroom was best broached via observations on the invalid's external environment and daily routine, and their essays present themselves as ethnographic studies of the microculture of the sickroom.

Keywords: sickroom; spiritual sanctuary; invalid authors; invalidism; Charles Lamb; Convalescent; Harriet Martineau; microculture; domesticity

Chapter.  19231 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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