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Gissing and unhealth: an analysis of medicine, death, and eugenics in the work of George Gissing

By Marie O'Connor


The study explores unhealth in the work of the fin-de-siècle realist writer George Gissing, whose novels are suffused with examples of illness and death. The aim is to discover whether he used unhealth as a way of prescribing a healthy, middle-class status quo. Character response to and author treatment of medicine, death and eugenics will be explored, reflecting how health and unhealth are controlled, feared and embraced. Chapter one focuses on medicine and power relationships between unhealth and health through the work of Michel Foucault. Chapter two uses Sigmund Freud’s death drive in documenting the protagonists’ journey to death. Chapter three looks at the texts alongside the eugenic doctrines of Francis Galton, to see if Gissing’s protagonists are part of a moral cull because of their unhealth. In concluding his novels Gissing maintains a middle-class status quo as his unhealthy protagonists are removed. His protagonists resist doctoring as it is a form of power and can prolong lives that Gissing believes should be ended. The protagonists are on a marked journey to death because of their unhealth and their inherited traits mean they have to die. Gissing makes this a welcomed and blissful release for both the protagonists and remaining characters

Topics: PN0080 Criticism, PN Literature (General)
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.bham.ac.uk:1504

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