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The Victorian Male Body

Edited by Joanne Ella Parsons, Ruth Heholt

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A bold study on the very epicentre of Victorian ideology: the white, male body

The Victorian Male Body examines some of the main expressions and practices of Victorian masculinity and its embodied physicality. The white, and frequently middle class, male body was often normalised as the epitome of Victorian values. Whilst there has been a long and fruitful discussion around the concept of the ‘too-visible’ body of the colonised subject and the expectations placed on women’s bodies, the idealised male body has received less attention in scholarly discussions. Through its examination of a broad range of Victorian literary and cultural texts, this new collection opens up a previously neglected field of study with a scrutinising focus on what is arguably the ideologically most important body in Victorian society.

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Introduction: Visible and Invisible Bodies, Ruth Heholt and Joanne Ella Parsons
I. Constructed Bodies
1. Violent Play and Regular Discipline: The Abuses of the Schoolboy Body in Victorian Fiction, Alice Crossley
2. Punishing the unregulated manly body and emotions in early Victorian England, Joanne Begiato
3. The New Man’s Body in Ménie Muriel Dowie’s Gallia, Tara MacDonald
II. Fractured and Fragmented Bodies
4. Pirates and Prosthetics: Manly Messages for Managing Limb Loss in Victorian and Edwardian Adventure Narratives, Ryan Sweet, 5. Tuberculosis and Visionary Sensibility: The Consumptive Body as Masculine Dissent in George Eliot and Henry James, Meredith Miller
6. Monstrous Masculinities from the Macaroni to the Masher: Reading the Gothic ‘Gentleman’, Alison Younger
7. Visible Yet Immaterial: The Phantom and the Male Body in Ghost Stories by Three Victorian Women Writers, Ruth Heholt
III. Unruly Bodies
8. Aesthetics of Deviance: George du Maurier's Representations of the Artist's Body for Punch as Discourse on Manliness, 1870-1880, Françoise Baillet
9. Suffering, Asceticism and the Starving Male Body in Mary Barton, Charlotte Boyce
10. Fosco’s Fat: Transgressive Consumption and Bodily Control in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, Joanne Ella Parsons
11. Sensationalizing Otherness: The Italian Male Body in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘Olivia’ and ‘Garibaldi’, Anne-Marie Beller.

About the Author

Joanne Ella Parsons is Lecturer at Bath Spa University. She is the editor of the Wilkie Collins journal, and her publications include Muller, N and J. Parsons (eds.) Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Special Issue: The Male Body in Victorian Literature and Culture 36.4 (September 2014) and Parsons, Joanne Ella. ‘Surtees’ ‘Eating Englishness and Causing Chaos: Food and the Body of the Fat Man in R. S. Surtees’ Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities, Handley Cross and Hillingdon Hall’ Nineteenth-Century Contexts 36.4 (September 2014).

Ruth Heholt is Senior Lecturer in English at Falmouth University. Her publications include edited scholarly edition of The Story of Lilly Dawson, by Catherine Crowe (Victorian Secrets Press, 2015), Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment Ruth Heholt and Niamh Downing (eds), (Rowman Littlefield), and Gothic Localities: Dark Places in the Provinces and Margins of the British Isles, Ruth Heholt and William Hughes (eds), (University of Wales Press).


The Victorian Male Body provides a fascinating and erudite assessment of the white middle-class Victorian male body in all its complex diversity. Specific chapters explore bodies which are young, damaged, spectral, ill, and well-dressed. The range of coverage is excellent in what is a critically important collection of essays.

- Andrew Smith, University of Sheffield

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