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'Staying Calm and Seizing the Iron: Contagion, Fermentation, and the Management of the Rabies Threat in Charlotte Bronte's Shirley'

Waugh, JS (2016) 'Staying Calm and Seizing the Iron: Contagion, Fermentation, and the Management of the Rabies Threat in Charlotte Bronte's Shirley'. Victorian Review, 42 (1). pp. 149-166.

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Abstract

This article argues that the management of rabies as perceived in England in the 1840s predicated a need to install or re-instate boundaries and barriers of the body, in ways which bring into sharp relief questions which are implicit throughout Bronte's novel, in which the heroine fears she has contracted the virus. Discussing in detail the 'rabies discourse' which prevailed in that decade, the article shows how rabidity lurks in language and narrative of the 1840s, and connects the understanding of the disease as one which spread through fermentation as well as contagion to contemporary anxieties about an untrammelled working class. The rabies narrative in Shirley, I argue, is a strategy by which Bronte articulates a response to the perceived problem of an insurgent working class: contingently sympathetic but nonetheless endorsing a repressive stance if necessary.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/vcr.2016.0044
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1488

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