This talk was organised by Faculty of English, Diseases of Modern Life 19th Century Perspectives Project
'Have ye ever seen a child clemmed to death?': Elizabeth Gaskell and the Physiology of Starvation
This talk will highlight the ways in which the social problem realism of Elizabeth Gaskell intersected with physiological ideas on the material nature of starvation. In modern historical studies and literary criticism there has been a tendency to look upon the social problem novel as an advocate for the emotional needs of the poor; it became highly critical, it is assumed, of the materialist and scientific approaches to social issues. Dr Mangham will argue that central to the novel’s focus on the human is an engagement with the principles, themes and epistemologies of physiology. Gaskell knew important figures in physiology, and engaged with scientists and social reformers through her Unitarian connections in Manchester. She developed a self-reflexive form of realism in her work that, while it tested the reaches and limits of the positivist approach, also saw its dedication to ‘truth’ as central to the moral and emotional understanding of poverty.
This events is free, open to everyone and does not require booking.