Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in Britain

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“While there has been extensive work on American freak shows, less had been done on the significance of the freak in England. Scholars and students gain much insight from the essayists’ invocations of disability studies as a model for thinking about freakishness and freakishness as a model for contemplating disability. Victorian Freaks will therefore be a welcome addition to the growing body of works on freaks and disability studies from a literary perspective.” —Elsie Michie, associate professor of English, Louisiana State University

Victorian Freaks is particularly noteworthy for its often-nuanced analysis of freakery. The figure of the freak is represented not simply as a victim of cultural prejudices, but as an agent who actively negotiates a version of subjectivity through the performance and manipulation of cultural codes regarding deviance and normalcy.” —Tamar Heller, author of Dead Secrets: Wilkie Collins and the Female Gothic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814210864
  • Publisher: Ohio State University Press
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Edition description: 2
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Marlene Tromp is John and Christine Warner Professor of English and Director of Women's Studies at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     vii
Foreword: Freakery Unfurled   Rosemarie Garland-Thomson     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
Introduction: Toward Situating the Victorian Freak   Marlene Tromp   Karyn Valerius     1
Marketing and Consuming Freakery     19
Even as You and I: Freak Shows and Lay Discourse on Spectacular Deformity   Heather McHold     21
Freaklore: The Dissemination, Fragmentation, and Reinvention of the Legend of Daniel Lambert, King of Fat Men   Joyce L. Huff     37
White Wings and Six-Legged Muttons: The Freakish Animal   Timothy Neil     60
Science, Medicine, and The Social     77
"Poor Hoo Loo": Sentiment, Stoicism, and the Grotesque in British Imperial Medicine   Meegan Kennedy     79
Elephant Talk: Language and Enfranchisement in the Merrick Case   Christine C. Ferguson     114
The Missing Link and the Hairy Belle: Krao and the Victorian Discourses of Evolution, Imperialism, and Primitive Sexuality   Nadja Durbach     134
Empire, Race, and Commodity     155
Empire and the Indian Freak: The "Miniature Man" from Cawnpore and the "Marvellous Indian Boy" on Tour in England   Marlene Tromp     157
The Victorian Mummy-Fetish: H. Rider Haggard, FrankAubrey, and the White Mummy   Kelly Hurley     180
Our Bear Women, Ourselves: Affiliating with Julia Pastrana   Rebecca Stern     200
Reading and Spectating the Freak     235
Queering the Marriage Plot: Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady   Martha Stoddard Holmes     237
Freaks That Matter: The Dolls' Dressmaker, the Doctor's Assistant, and the Limits of Difference   Melissa Free     259
A Collaborative Aesthetic: Levinas's Idea of Responsibility and the Photographs of Charles Eisenmann and the Late Nineteenth-Century Freak-Performer   Christopher R. Smit     283
Notes on Contributors     313
Index     317
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