1st Edition

Gendered Pathologies The Female Body and Biomedical Discourse in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel

By Sondra Archimedes Copyright 2006
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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


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