Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in Britain
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While “freaks” have captivated our imagination since well before the nineteenth century, the Victorians flocked to shows featuring dancing dwarves, bearded ladies, “missing links,” and six-legged sheep. Indeed, this period has been described by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson as the epoch of “consolidation” for freakery: an era of social change, enormously popular freak shows, and taxonomic frenzy. Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in Britain, edited by Marlene Tromp, turns to that rich nexus, examining the struggle over definitions of “freakery” and the unstable and sometimes conflicting ways in which freakery was understood and deployed. As the first study centralizing British culture, this collection discusses figures as varied as Joseph Merrick, “The Elephant Man”; Daniel Lambert, “King of the Fat Men”; Julia Pastrana, “The Bear Woman”; and Laloo “The Marvellous Indian Boy” and his embedded, parasitic twin. The Victorian Freaks contributors examine Victorian culture through the lens of freakery, reading the production of the freak against the landscape of capitalist consumption, the medical community, and the politics of empire, sexuality, and art. Collectively, these essays ask how freakery engaged with notions of normalcy and with its Victorian cultural context.
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Fat and, by extension, foreign consumer practices also worked to allay British consumer anxiety. British scientists, in general, tended to view cultural differences in eating practices as deviations from a Western norm. The inherent racism of this view becomes clear when physician William Wadd compares abnormalities of English diet to the supposed diets of those in foreign lands. In 1829 Wadd documented what he considered the “morbid or extravagant propensities of English stomachs” as models for.
Curious case, which flourished in the eighteenth century and persisted into the nineteenth century, in the teeth of increasing pressure toward objectivity and normative cases. Such survivals are more common than might be expected, even late in the century, but the curious discourse in these cases is typically tempered with more careful scientific detail. By 1896, for example, with the publication of a collection of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, the American editor carefully framed the.
Continual waves of deformity that had been gradually “animalizing” Merrick since birth. In the narrative, Merrick as individual is made to recapitulate the evolutionary history of the species, shedding the taint of a bestial past and ascending to human status as he attains control over speech. Yet just as the text seems to epitomize the triumphant and familiar plot of language as humanizing agent, so does it foreground some of its failures and gaps. Imaginatively inspired by contemporary.
Relations, he is a prey to constant fears” (557). Chapter 5: Elephant Talk 133 For more on late-Victorian representations of savage thought, see George Stocking’s Victorian Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1987) and Brian V. Street’s The Savage in Literature: Representations of “Primitive” Society in English Fiction, 1858–1920 (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975). 52. Treves, 198. 53. Ibid., 201. 54. Ibid., 207. 55. Andrew Lang, “Realism and Romance” (1886), in The Fin de.
Alternatively, she was seen in a promotional photograph clinging to her adoptive father, naked with hairy arms and legs wrapped around him in a simian embrace. A cartoon of this photograph was reproduced in the Sporting News with the caption “Linked Sweetness,” stressing Krao’s “winsome ways” but implying that she was as much animal as human. Beside this cartoon appeared another that depicted Krao in her “bib and tucker.” Here the artist exaggerated her lips to stress her status as a “talking.