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Title: Laughing to excess : Gothic fiction and the pathologisation of laughter in late Victorian Britain
Author: Bartlett, Mackenzie Amie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 7955
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis places late Victorian medical, biological, and psychological studies of laughter alongside classic examples ofjin-de-siecle gothic fiction in order to consider the discursive links between laughter and pathology. Through an investigation of scientific and pseudoscientific texts that discuss laughter's physicality, as well as its psychological effects, spiritualistic properties, and sound qualities, I suggest that laughter occupied an important and hitherto unexamined role in the cultural history of late Victorian Britain. Stratified into normal and inappropriate forms of expression by a host of medical doctors and social theorists, excessive laughter was systematically pathologised as a physiognomic defect, a sign of atavism and criminality, a symptom of hysteria, and a pathogenic form of contagion. By studying the late Victorian fascination with the pathological side of laughter rather than its traditional comedic associations, my thesis offers new ways of approaching popular gothic texts including H. Rider Haggard's She (1886), H. G. Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and The Invisible Man (1897), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), as well as lesser-known novels and short stories by Richard Marsh, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle. I suggest that moments of laughter in these stories - whether they be hysterical, degenerate, animalistic, disembodied, or monstrous - should be read as textual focal points for complex engagements with a variety of scientific, social, and cultural issues that came to define the late Victorian era
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available