Charles Dickens and the Sciences of Childhood Popular Medicine, Child Health and Victorian Culture

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-09-27
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
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The first in-depth study of Dickens's creative engagement with popular science and medicine, this book brings to light the scientific entertainments, shows and institutions, and the material and print cultures that revolutionized the ways in which Victorian audiences encountered childhood. It explores Dickens's literary and journalistic writings, his private interests and public causes across the span of his long career. In doing so, it offers a new way of understanding Dickens's preoccupation with childhood by showing how his fascination with novel scientific ideas about childhood and with new practices of scientific inquiry shaped the development of his narrative techniques and aesthetic imagination.
Drawing on fascinating archival material, this book reconstructs Dickens's experience of mesmerist trials and hospital ward tours, anatomical museums and popular scientific performances. It provides new readings of some of Dickens's most famous works, including Oliver Twist, Dombey and Son and Our Mutual Friend, as well as of lesser-known texts. Dickens's child characters were a source of inspiration to many medical writers, institutions and journalists, and the book also traces how these groups appropriated Dickensian characters and motifs in order to debate and bolster the authority of new scientific ideas.

Author Biography

Katharina Boehm is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Regensburg University, Germany, and Volkswagen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the English Department of Rutgers University. She is the editor of Bodies and Things in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture ( 2012) and co-editor of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging in Nineteenth-Century Culture (2013). Her work has appeared in Victorian Review, Journal of Victorian Culture and Studies in the Novel.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Experimental Subjects: Oliver Twist and the Culture of Mesmerist Experimentation
2. Hothouse Children: Dombey and Son and Popular Medical Child Health Manuals
3. Dickens, the Social Mission of Victorian Paediatrics and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children
4. The Feelings of Childhood: Dickens and the Study of the Child's Mind
5. Monstrous Births and Saltationism in Our Mutual Friend and Popular Anatomical Museums

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