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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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Mysterious Bodies: Solving and De-Solving Disability in the Fin-de-Siècle Mystery

Mysterious Bodies: Solving and De-Solving Disability in the Fin-de-Siècle Mystery

(p.161) Chapter Six Mysterious Bodies: Solving and De-Solving Disability in the Fin-de-Siècle Mystery
Articulating Bodies

Kylee-Anne Hingston

Liverpool University Press

This chapter argues that disability becomes fully specimen in the fin-de-siècle mystery, which grants authority to the professional discourses of medicine, science, and law. Comparing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) to Doyle’s ‘The Adventure of the Crooked Man’ (1893), the chapter illuminates the interplay between scientific discourse and narrative structure in fin-de-siècle mysteries, revealing the ambiguity with which late Victorians understood and criminalized disability. Despite Jekyll and Hyde’s modern Gothic, open narrative structure, the novella confirms the conservative disability stereotypes associated with late Victorian criminology and physiognomy, which placed anxieties of cultural deviance upon the disabled mind and body. In contrast, despite the conservative drive towards closure typical of detective fiction, ‘The Crooked Man’ undermines those stereotypes and the supposed criminality of the disabled body. However, when either narrative focalizes through characters with freakish bodies, that focalization troubles the professional authority of scientific discourse and denies the possibility of controlling deviance or separating it from imagined normalcy.

Keywords:   modern Gothic, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sherlock Holmes, Jekyll and Hyde, open narrative, detective fiction, mystery, physiognomy, criminology

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