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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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Sensing Bodies: Negotiating the Body and Identity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone

Sensing Bodies: Negotiating the Body and Identity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone

Chapter:
(p.77) Chapter Three Sensing Bodies: Negotiating the Body and Identity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone
Source:
Articulating Bodies
Author(s):

Kylee-Anne Hingston

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789620757.003.0004

This chapter illustrates how mid-Victorian sensation fiction responds to anxieties exacerbated by nascent Victorian psychology’s attempt to map the self on the corporeal body. Examining the form and focalization of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd (1862–63) and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868), this chapter argues that bodies in sensation fiction function both as spectacle, exhibitions of physical instability, and as specimens, case studies on the source of identity. In Aurora Floyd, focalization through an authoritative external perspective provides ‘correct’ interpretations of bodies which have previously been misinterpreted by physiognomy, phrenology, and lineage. In particular, the narrator uses external focalization on disabled villains to manifest how identity appears in bodies and to place eugenic value on those with healthy bodies. By contrast, The Moonstone, lacking authoritative external focalization due to its multiple first-person narrators, uses plot to reveal misinterpretations of disabled bodies, in particular that of Rosanna Spearman. In addition, internally focalized interactions between normate narrators and disabled characters in the novel often cause the narrators to recognize the instability of their own identities and bodies, and thus of normalcy. However, the novel’s overall narrative structure works to control deviance through linearity, which imposes normalcy as a stable, final result.

Keywords:   sensation fiction, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Aurora Floyd, The Moonstone, physiognomy, focalization, multiple first-person narrators, identity, disabled villains

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