Date of Award

8-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Urmila Seshagiri

Committee Members

Stanton B. Garner Jr., Amy Elias, Bryant Creel

Abstract

In this project, I explore cultural representations of aberrant embodiment, society’s monsters, to assess the sociopolitical implications of corporeal deviance. I contend that imaginative literature participates in the re/construction of monstrous bodies as an element of a larger social process of individuation and communal boundary-making, the defining of self and community through exclusionary practices embedded in the body. By situating Victorian and Modernist British novels in dialog with one another, I chart a trajectory in cultural understandings of embodied deviance that moves “from prodigy to pathology.” The change occurs, I argue, because the rise of modern medical practices ultimately constitutes the “domestication” of the monster, rendering it knowable, predictable, and containable within the boundaries of the diagnostic paradigm. Whereas the monster in Victorian fiction presents an ambivalent figure, both threatening and alluring, in Modernism, the monster has been rendered largely performative and instrumental, the product of its pathologization by scientific discourse.

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