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Victorian literature is rife with scenes of madness, with mental disorder functioning as everything from a simple plot device to a commentary on the foundations of Victorian society. But while madness in Victorian fiction has been much studied, most scholarship has focused on the portrayal of madness in women; male mental disorder in the period has suffered comparative neglect. Valerie Pedlar corrects this imbalance in The ‘Most Dreadful Visitation.’ This extraordinary study explores a wide range of Victorian writings to consider the relationship between the portrayal of mental illness in literary works and the portrayal of similar disorders in the writings of doctors and psychologists. Pedlar presents in-depth studies of Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge, Tennyson’s Maud, Wilkie Collins’s Basil, and Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right, considering each work in the context of Victorian understandings—and fears—of mental degeneracy.
Valerie Pedlar teaches at the Open University in Manchester. She has contributed to a number of publications including 'The Nineteenth Century Novels: Identities' (ed. Dennis Walder Routledge 2001.)
1. Insurrection and Imagination: Idiocy and Barnaby Rudge
2. Thwarted Lovers: Basil and Maud
3. Wrongful Confinement, Sensationalism and Hard Cash
4. Madness and Marriage
5. The Zoophagus Maniac: Madness and Degeneracy in Dracula
November 1, 2006
Liverpool English Texts and Studies 46