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

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

Chapter:
(p.245) Afterword Centers, Margins, and Vanishing Points: Locating Invalidism in the Nineteenth Century
Source:
Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Author(s):
Maria H. Frawley
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226261225.003.0007

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

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