Afterword Centers, Margins, and Vanishing Points: Locating Invalidism in the Nineteenth Century

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:
Afterword Centers, Margins, and Vanishing Points: Locating Invalidism in the Nineteenth Century

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If the invalid occupied a prominent position in nineteenth-century medical understanding and social life, does it necessarily follow that this figure—capacious enough to contain so many extremes, slippery enough to defy precise definition—should assume a similarly privileged position in a literary and cultural analysis of the period? Elizabeth Gaskell—the Victorian novelist who perhaps made most frequent use of the invalid in her writing—can help begin to answer this question. This chapter turns to Gaskell, a fiction writer, in part to affirm its emphasis on the invalid as a preeminent figure of the nineteenth-century medical, social, and literary landscape. The most useful evidence with which to summarize its argument about the invalid's position, function, and symbolic significance in nineteenth-century Britain is to be found, however, at the margins of Gaskell's canon. One of her works, Round the Sofa, reveals her trademark interest in the pressures exerted by new world change on old world sensibilities and standards, and recapitulates many of this book's most central claims about the “story” of invalidism.

Keywords: invalid; social life; Elizabeth Gaskell; invalidism; Round the Sofa

Chapter.  3811 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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