Gendered Pathologies: The Female Body and Biomedical Discourse in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Gendered Pathologies

The Female Body and Biomedical Discourse in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel, 1st Edition

By Sondra Archimedes


210 pages

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Gendered Pathologies examines nineteenth-century literary representations of the pathologized female body in relation to biomedical discourses about gender and society in Victorian England. According to medical and scientific views of the period, the woman who did not conform to the dictates of gender ideology was, biologically speaking, aberrant: a deviation from the norm. Yet, although marginalized in a social sense, the "deviant" woman was central as a literary and cultural trope. Analyzing novels by Charles Dickens, H. Rider Haggard, and Thomas Hardy alongside Foucault's notion of perverse sexualities and Herbert Spencer's model of the social organism, Archimedes argues that the pathologized female body displaces or resolves, on a narrative level, larger cultural anxieties about the health of the British as a species. While earlier feminist investigations asserted that bourgeois ideology helped to construct scientific discourses about female sexuality and social behavior, this study takes these assertions as a starting point . Examining incest, racial stereotyping, and neurasthenia, Gendered Pathologies attempts to shed light on the ways in which biological thinking permeated British culture in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION "Derangements of the Uterus" and Other Mysteries

CHAPTER 1 Science, Gender, and the Nineteenth Century

CHAPTER 2 Towards a Discourse of Perversion: Female Deviance, Sibling Incest, and the Bourgeois Family in Dickens's Hard Times

CHAPTER 3 Women, Savages, and the Body of Africa: Rider Haggard's She as Biological Narrative

CHAPTER 4 "Shapes like our own selves hideously multiplied": Sue Bridehead, Reproduction, and the Disease of "Modern Civilization"

AFTERWORD Female Deviance in the Twenty-First Century: From Martha Stewart to Lynndie England



About the Author

Sondra M. Archimedes is a lecturer at U.C. Santa Cruz.

About the Series

Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies