chapter
16 Pages

Victorian Contagion

Risk and Social Control in the Victorian Literary Imagination
ByChung-jen Chen

This book aims to explore the significance of the Victorian concept of contagion: its variations; its values; and, above all, its importance to Victorian ideas of social control. My methodology is to focus as much as possible on individual works of literature and influential texts in the field of medicine and public health, works that I feel combine great interpretative imagination with innovative science. Through this collage of literature and medical history, I try to make sense of the relationship of these texts to collective fear and individual resistance and discern the principles which shaped the economy of contagion and the morality of sanitation. This is a book about health and disease, about aspiration and apprehension, about normality and governance, about management and discipline, about “us” and “them,” and about how each of these elements is put into play by the various and often contradictory narratives of contagions.