With the character of the doctor as her subject, Tabitha Sparks follows the decline of the marriage plot in the Victorian novel. As Victorians came to terms with the scientific revolution in medicine of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the novel's progressive distance from the conventions of the marriage plot can be indexed through a rising identification of the doctor with scientific empiricism. A narrative's stance towards scientific reason, Sparks argues, is revealed by the fictional doctor's relationship to the marriage plot. Thus, novels that feature romantic doctors almost invariably deny the authority of empiricism, as is the case in George MacDonald's Adela Cathcart. In contrast, works such as Wilkie Collins's Heart and Science, which highlight clinically minded or even sinister doctors, uphold the determining logic of science and, in turn, threaten the novel's romantic plot. By focusing on the figure of the doctor rather than on a scientific theme or medical field, Sparks emulates the Victorian novel's personalization of tropes and belief systems, using the realism associated with the doctor to chart the sustainability of the Victorian novel's central imaginative structure, the marriage plot. As the doctors Sparks examines increasingly stand in for the encroachment of empirical knowledge on a morally formulated artistic genre, their alienation from the marriage plot and its interrelated decline succinctly herald the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of Modernism.
’Drawing inspiration from the rich critical heritage on the thematics of the marriage plot and a wealth of diverse interdisciplinary studies in Victorian literature and science, Sparks offers a rich and compelling investigation into the development of the medical profession and its relevant cultural implications.’ Rivista di Studi Vittoriani 'This is a closely-argued and […] clearly written investigation, directed at an audience familiar with recent Victorian fiction criticism, which deserves close reading and (as good critical discussion of text will) drives the reader back to the novels chosen for analysis.' Gaskell Journal 'Literary scholars are likely to be satisfied by Sparks' diverse selection of texts, which combines familiar with forgotten fiction, and the well-organised critical readings, which balance clarity and subtlety.' Social History of Medicine '[Sparks's] book tackles the figure of the doctor from a literary point of view, and her analysis of the impact of the doctor-character on the marriage-plot offers an original insight into Victorian realism. … the range of canonical, popular or less known novels and short stories Sparks examines, makes it an interesting study of the figure of the "doctor" and its evolution.' Miranda 'While in some respects the doctor appeared to be the very essence of self-made, middle-class masculine benevolence and rationality, Sparks finds that through the marriage plot writers of fiction reveal a very flawed character and it is the evident ''tension between medical and romantic epistemologies'' that the book addresses. To explore this tension Sparks interrogates the correlation between the doctor's success in the domestic sphere and the trajectory of his public career. The results of this analysis are intriguing.' English Studies 'Demonstrating an unusually wide reading, especially of popular literature, Sparks discusses no fewer than forty-four doctor characters throughout the course of the book. This fe
Contents: Introduction; Doctoring the marriage plot: Harriet Martineau's Deerbrook and George Eliot's Middlemarch; Textual healing: George MacDonald's Adela Cathcart; Marital malpractice at mid-century: Braddon's The Doctor's Wife and Gaskell's Wives and Daughters; Myopic medicine and far-sighted femininity: Wilkie Collins's Armadale and Heart and Science; New women, avenging doctors: gothic medicine in Bram Stoker and Arthur Machen; The 'fair physician': female doctors and the late-century marriage plot; Conclusion - 'The overstimulated nerve ceases to respond': Arthur Conan Doyle's medical modernism; Bibliography; Index.