Of gods, monsters, and men
Science, faith, the law, and the contested body and mind in The Frankenstein Chronicles and The Alienist
in Diagnosing history
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The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015–2017) and The Alienist (2018–) belong to an expanding group of stylish nineteenth-century-set gothic mystery/crime dramas that variously combine history, fiction, and fantasy. They share common themes connected to class, social change, morality, morality, and gender, especially masculine crisis, but also a particular fascination with the body and the mind. Both are characterised by graphic scenes of violence, death, and disturbingly vivid depictions of human cadavers, alongside exploration and interrogation of troubled minds and tortured souls. Significantly, they are set against a backdrop of social reform and changing attitudes towards scientific progress and innovations in medical practice, The Frankenstein Chronicles during the first half of the century, and The Alienist during its final years. But progress and the pre-eminence of science are frequently problematised as those in pursuit of radical advancement are often morally ambiguous and prone to corruption. This chapter explores the resulting tensions between science, faith, politicians, and agents of the law. Furthermore, it engages with the series’ preoccupation with the nature of monstrosity and morbid spectacles of human vulnerability. It will argue that the body and mind are pivotal in the struggle between competing forces and that both are consistently contested and conflicted.

Diagnosing history

Medicine in television period drama


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