Deborah M. Fratz
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Disabling the author in mid-Victorian realist fiction
Case studies of George Eliot and Harriet Martineau
in Disability and the Victorians
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This chapter explores representations of impairment and disability in the ‘Literary Realism’ writings of George Eliot and Harriet Martineau and investigates a different medium of popular perceptions and representations of disability, that of popular fiction. Criticism addressing the use of disabled characters in Victorian fiction frequently acknowledges how such characters function by invoking feelings of sympathy, both within the narrative and in readers. However, Deerbrook’s Maria Young and Philip Wakem in The Mill on the Floss reverse our expectations: rather than being the subjects of observation and sympathy, they operate as model observers of the world around them. In this, they differ from the stereotypical role assigned to disabled characters in other Victorian novels and seek to follow one of the guiding principles of Literary Realism, the accurate portrayal of daily life, rather than some romanticised notion.

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Disability and the Victorians

Attitudes, interventions, legacies


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