chapter  8
26 Pages

“A Clean City is a Healthy City”

Normativity and Contagions in Victorian Slum Narratives
ByChung-jen Chen

Chapter 8 surveys the employment of medical normativism in Victorian slum narratives written by Henry Mayhew, Friedrich Engels, and Charles Booth. These writers were deeply influenced by medical findings that established normative ways of life, and the representation within their work of dysfunction, disability, and degeneration as symptoms of a pathology signifying a collective fear of contagions. The fervent devotion to the details of filth reflected the medical and moralist norms in which health is synonymous with balance and harmony, and disease with defecation and degeneration.