The Importance Of Mental Ilursess In Victorian Literature

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The line between nineteenth-century psychology and fiction is almost nonexistent. Based upon the contemporary scientific, medical, and public discourses, the topic of mental illness was examined across all fields. The mutability of this term, mental illness, draws the question of what made it so changeable in the nineteenth century. It is the aim of this dissertation to show the treatment of social and medical discourse in Victorian literature by exploring Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). Roger Smith’s essay on psychology in periodical literature was the main inspiration for this dissertation. His statement inspired this research to explore how the medical discourse sparked public debate. Although his focus is on the discourse of different sciences, his research also inspired this dissertation’s attempt to prove a connection between academic fields, specifically literature and science. Smith’s articulation of his research is presented in such a way that helps provide a beneficial understanding of the discourse of nineteenth-century England.
Joan Busfield’s article also inspired this dissertation’s research concerning the gender anxiety of nineteenth-century mental illness. Busfield argued there was not a clear difference between women and men being admitted to the asylums based on ground of insanity. I found this interesting considering there was a social anxiety that women were committed
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