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Articulating BodiesThe Narrative Form of Disability and Illness in Victorian Fiction$
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Kylee-Anne Hingston

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620757

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620757.001.0001

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Grotesque Bodies: Hybridity and Focalization in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris

Grotesque Bodies: Hybridity and Focalization in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris

(p.19) Chapter One Grotesque Bodies: Hybridity and Focalization in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris
Articulating Bodies

Kylee-Anne Hingston

Liverpool University Press

This chapter argues that Victor Hugo’s historical Gothic novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831)—especially in its popular English translation, Hunchback of Notre Dame (1833)—set a precedent in Victorian fiction for investigating the disabled body through narrative form and focalization. The chapter shows how Hugo uses external focalization from a perspective outside the narrative action to portray the disabled body as grotesque and thus inherently deviant but uses strategic internal focalization through characters inside the narrative to destabilize the boundaries between normalcy and abnormality. In particular, focalizing externally on Quasimodo, Hugo separates reader empathy from him and dehumanizes his body; but focalizing through Quasimodo forces readers to share his embodiment, removing the distinction between self and other. Moreover, the chapter contends that the novel’s structural hybridity, which combines disparate genres, enables the dialogic conflict of these two opposing voices and so provides a structural prototype whereby Victorian novels approached disability.

Keywords:   Victor Hugo, Hunchback of Notre Dame, focalization, Gothic, grotesque, hybridity, disability

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