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ANALYZING THE “WHY” AND “HOW” OF DISABILITY IN FRANKENSTEIN, POOR MISS FINCH, AND THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

Pitcher, Rachel (2021) ANALYZING THE “WHY” AND “HOW” OF DISABILITY IN FRANKENSTEIN, POOR MISS FINCH, AND THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. Masters thesis, Radford University.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT In Frankenstein, the Creature discovers that his horrific appearance is what separates him from others in society. The Creature realizes, “At first I stared back, unable to believe that was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification” (Shelley 85). The other characters are not the only ones who treat the Creature as “disabled,” but he treats himself as “disabled” as well after this realization. According to Fiona Kumari Campbell’s concept of internalized ableism, the Creature has realized his own flaws and begins to judge himself for them (20). People’s reaction to the Creature have made him realize that he is unacceptable in this ableist society. Coupling the close reading of this text with Campbell’s disability studies theory and alongside other disability study theorists like Dan Goodley or David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, provide insight into “how” the characters disable the Creature. In addition to examining literary texts using the “how” approach, it is important to look at the texts with the “why.” The “why” approaches texts with the historical and cultural context during the time period the text was written. Using this context, the readers can be more aware of the author’s conscious or unconscious choices for the characters in his or her texts. For example, Johann Caspar Lavater’s physiognomy, the pseudoscience of studying the face to reveal a person’s personality traits, was practiced during the 19th century. This practice could be one of the reasons why the Creature is judged so harshly by Romantic society. Similarly, Arthur Ladbroke Wigan’s published medical ideas about the double minded capabilities of the brain could explain the split between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Lastly, Francis Galton’s medical publications about the connections that twins have could explain the treatment of Nugent and Oscar in Poor Miss Finch. Without these historical and cultural contexts, readers would only have a partial understanding of the primary text. Therefore, I argue that to have a full understanding of disability studies within historical literary texts, readers need to approach the texts through two lenses. First, they must approach the text with the “how.” Studying the primary text and applying modern disability studies theory gives the reader a strong understanding of how ableism operates in the text. Next, the “how” provides the cultural and historical context of the text, which could lead the reader to understand the author’s literary choices and the character’s actions. This combined approach will contribute to the field of disability studies and the field of New Historicism.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Radford University > College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences > Department of English
Depositing User: Rachel Pitcher
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2021 01:34
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2022 16:37
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/708

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