Prompted by Victorians’ frequent conflation of body and text, the introduction argues that Victorian fiction’s narrative form, specifically plot structure and focalization, contributed to the development of disability as a concept; in particular, as fiction’s form developed from the massive hybrid novels of the early decades of the nineteenth century to the case-study length of fin-de-siècle mysteries, disability became increasingly medicalized, moving from the position of spectacle to specimen. The chapter addresses focalization’s evocation of the perceiving body, linking focalization to theories of staring and the specular in disability studies, and it provides a history of scholarship on Victorian illness and disability, thus placing the book’s argument in the fields of narratology, disability studies, and Victorian studies.
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