chapter  5
32 Pages

From Imagined Community to Imagined Immunity

Medical Realism in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Novels
ByChung-jen Chen

In my reading Elizabeth Gaskells’s North and South in the fifth chapter, I illustrate how Victorian medical and moral standards associated contagion with abnormality. Discourses around contagion turn preferred habits into a norm of health. Conversely, the abhorrence of disease, discomfort, and death makes contagion a social and cultural symbol of sickness, a form of abnormality that must be remedied and segregated if it cannot be cured. The Victorian conception of the healthy social body and the productive national body contributed to the emergence of a modernized bio-political body of discipline, productivity, and efficiency.