Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Beth Rosenberg

Number of Pages



Many scholarly studies have examined illness, sickness, and invalidism in British nineteenth-century fiction. Few have explored these concepts in both fiction and poetry as "disabilities." This study traces the origins of the concept of disability in the poetic and fictional representations in three nineteenth-century key women authors: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and her poetry, and Christina Rossetti's "Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets" and "Goblin Market." Significant to the early development of the concept of disability is the emergence of the related concept of normalcy in the nineteenth-century. Along with the concept of normalcy are also the related concepts of nature and the feminine that represent the unstable material (the body) that is the root of all disability. The literature of these women, on the one hand, moves to "frame" and "contain" the unstable and worldly material, but, on the other hand, their representations show that the material body is irrepressible and control is impossible; representations of the material body insist on visibility. I suggest that this concept and its polar concept, abnormal, underpin the representations of disability and that the writers' connotative representations manifest the struggle between these polarities. Through textual readings, this dissertation suggests that Shelley, Bronte, and Rossetti, writing within British nineteenth-century culture that was, perhaps, progressively more concerned with social norms, struggled with ways in which to regard the body and its disabilities.


Bronte; Bronte, Emily; Disability; Emily; Literature; Mary; Rossetti; Rossetti, Christina; Shelley, Mary; Shelly

Controlled Subject

British literature; English literature--Irish authors; Irish literature

File Format


File Size

8468.48 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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