Victorian Contagion : Risk and Social Control in the Victorian Literary Imagination book cover
1st Edition

Victorian Contagion
Risk and Social Control in the Victorian Literary Imagination

ISBN 9781032089935
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
332 Pages

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Book Description

Victorian Contagion: Risk and Social Control in the Victorian Literary Imagination examines the literary and cultural production of contagion in the Victorian era and the way that production participated in a moral economy of surveillance and control. In this book, I attempt to make sense of how the discursive practice of contagion governed the interactions and correlations between medical science, literary creation, and cultural imagination. Victorians dealt with the menace of contagion by theorizing a working motto in claiming the goodness and godliness in cleanliness which was theorized, realized, and radicalized both through practice and imagination. The Victorian discourse around cleanliness and contagion, including all its treatments and preventions, developed into a culture of medicalization, a perception of surveillance, a politics of health, an economy of morality, and a way of thinking. This book is an attempt to understands the literary and cultural elements which contributed to fear and anticipation of contagion, and to explain why and how these elements still matter to us today.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Theorizing Contagion: The Uses of Contagion in Victorian England
  3. Verbalizing Contagion: Edwin Chadwick’s Narratives and the Rise of Public Health Governance
  4. "All Smell is Disease": Medical Realism in Charles Dickens’s Narratives of Sanitation
  5. Serial Outbreaks: Florence Nightingale and the Narrative Practice of Nursing
  6. From Imagined Community to Imagined Immunity: Medical Realism in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels
  7. Aesthetics of Sanitation and Social Practice in Dickens’s Novels: Prostitution and Moral Politics of Contagions
  8. "A Clean City is a Healthy City": Normativity and Contagions in Victorian Slum Narratives
  9. Victorian Materials and Rubbish Theory: Charles Dickens and the Recycling of Society in Our Mutual Friend
  10. Conclusion

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Chung-jen Chen is an associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University, Taiwan. He holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from National Taiwan Normal University (2009). He was a visiting scholar in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) at Harvard University (2017-18). He was the recipient of the Award for Innovative Research for Young Scholars from the Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship (2015) and the Golden Tripod Award of Taiwan (2014) for his book in Mandarin, Empire, Medicine and 19th-Century English Literature. His research interests include nineteenth-century British novels, contemporary British fiction, and interdisciplinary studies in medicine and literature.


'Indeed, in what for me is the strongest part of Victorian Contagion, Chen deploys the methods of literary criticism to uncover the discursive maneuvers by which a secular work like Chadwick’s 1842 Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain attains powerful moral effects.'

Sambudha Sen, Shiv Nadar University