By Erika Wright
“In Erika Wright’s concise, incisive Reading for Health: Medical Narratives and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, she reverses a formative assumption: instead of reading for illness, she focuses on well-being. She recovers narratives of prevention instead of therapeutic narratives, and those health-based stories have a different form; instead of a pattern of diagnosis/crisis/cure, narratives of health are stories of steady-state maintenance.”
“Offering a largely overlooked perspective, Wright adds to growing body of scholarship in the medical humanities by considering what she terms ‘hygienic’ Victorian novels. She argues that in contrast to the familiar therapeutic narrative arc of ‘prelude, crisis, and cure,’ hygienic narratives are premised on maintenance and prevention. …Wright’s volume not only represents an important contribution to scholarship on the Victorian novel, medical humanities, and narrative theory but also demonstrates the value of literature in helping improve medical education and communication. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
“A fascinating and timely contribution to discussions concerning the interrelation of medicine and fiction.”
Heather Tilley, English Studies
“In its original uncovering of hygienic narrative strategies in the nineteenth century, Reading for Health proves to be an important contribution to interdisciplinary nineteenth-century studies scholarship with an interest in literature and medicine.”
Lorenzo Servitje, Victoriographies
In Reading for Health: Medical Narratives and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, Erika Wright argues that the emphasis in Victorian Studies on disease as the primary source of narrative conflict that must be resolved has obscured the complex reading practices that emerge around the concept of health. By shifting attention to the ways that prevention of illness and the preservation of well-being operate in fiction, both thematically and structurally, Wright offers a new approach to reading character and voice, order and temporality, setting and metaphor. As Wright reveals, while canonical works by Austen, Brontë, Dickens, Martineau, and Gaskell register the pervasiveness of a conventional “therapeutic” form of action and mode of reading, they demonstrate as well an equally powerful investment in the achievement and maintenance of “health”—what Wright refers to as a “hygienic” narrative—both in personal and domestic conduct and in social interaction of the individual within the community.
Erika Wright is an assistant professor of clinical medical education at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, associate director of USC’s HEAL (Humanities, Ethics, Art, and the Law) and Narrative Medicine master’s programs, and a lecturer in USC’s University Park Campus English department. More info →
“Readers of Victorian novels will likely appreciate John Ruskin’s critique of “modern stories.” Disease and death are everywhere in nineteenth-century novels. Imagine Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1853) without Esther Summerson’s delirium or the fetid atmosphere of Tom-All-Alone’s, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) without a young Jane clutching a dead Helen Burns, or an Elizabeth Gaskell novel without industrial illness—whether Mary Barton’s inanition or the fluff in little Bessy’s lungs. For many scholars, the Victorian novel would not be Victorian without illness.…”
— Table of Contents and Introduction: “Becoming Patient Readers”
Save 20% ($64)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
To request instructor exam/desk copies, email Jeff Kallet at email@example.com.
To request media review copies, email Laura Andre at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
If nineteenth-century Britain witnessed the rise of medical professionalism, it also witnessed rampant quackery. It is tempting to categorize historical practices as either orthodox or quack, but what did these terms really signify in medical and public circles at the time? How did they develop and evolve? What do they tell us about actual medical practices?Doctoring
Reading Victorian Deafness is the first book to address the crucial role that deaf people, and their unique language of signs, played in Victorian culture.
Cleansing the City: Sanitary Geographies in Victorian Londonexplores not only the challenges faced by reformers as they strove toclean up an increasingly filthy city but the resistance to their efforts.Beginning in the 1830s, reform-minded citizens, under the banner of sanitaryimprovement, plunged into London’s dark and dirty spaces and returned withthe material they needed to promote public health legislation and magnificentprojects of sanitary engineering.