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

O'Connor, Marie (2011)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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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.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of English Literature
Subjects:PN0080 Criticism
PN Literature (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1504
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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