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BOOK reviews In this decisive, carefully organized study, Thomas's close and provocative readings of a wide variety of fiction expose the limitations, often the dangers, of reliance on forensic science to interpret the behavior of human beings, either as a group or as individuals. He points out that literary detectives of the twentieth century often rejected scientific methods for a more instinctive, as opposed to a scientific, approach. Forensic science, nevertheless, remained central to the actual investigation of crime, and realistic portrayals of law enforcement in detective fiction still reflected the use of forensics. Increasingly sophisticated devices have been developed to read the text of the body. The fingerprint as a means of identification is enhanced by DNA. The mug shot and the lie detector are supplemented by the living testimony of the body, covertly obtained by powerful listening and viewing devices which operate from undercover and across great distances, even space. Yet, as Thomas notices on the last pages of his book, the search for truth retains its initial shortcomings. Criminals are still categorized by arbitrary standards such as race, class and nationality. Character and individuality are disregarded since scientific methods cannot recognize the distinctive traits of humanity. Thomas shows us incisively how the detective story, a genre often thought of as an inferior form of fiction, made important comments on cultural and political issues during the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we still fail to heed its warnings. Edward S. Lauterbach ______________ Purdue University Case Studies of Pathology Erin O'Connor. Raw Material: Producing Pathology in Victorian Culture . Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. xii + 272 pp. Cloth $54.95 Paper $18.95 THIS BOOK, issued in Duke's Body, Commodity, Text series, is both a set of case studies of pathology in the nineteenth century and an interrogation of the contemporary cultural theories that have dominated recent thinking about the body and embodiment. The "raw material " of the title is the industrialised, diseased, cancerous and monstrous Victorian body in England, principally analysed in the most intensive phase of industrial and urban expansion of the 1840s and 1850s, although the last chapter extends discussion into the degeneration theories more commonly associated with the fin de siècle. O'Connor contends that bodily pathologies are sites where Victorians condensed their dreams and anxieties about the effect of industrial modernity on bodies 227 ELT 45 : 2 2002 and selves. The book aims, then, to study "the poetics of pathology during the nineteenth century, examining how the material patterns of disease became the basis for a highly metaphorical exploration of the human condition." The four case studies offer a wealth of fascinating primary material, and evidence a close attention to detail and to the importance of historical specificity. The first deals with the arrival of Asiatic Cholera from the Indian subcontinent, first appearing in the colonial centre in 1831, with repeated outbreaks into the 1860s. Cholera, for O'Connor, acts as a kind of "somatized social critique" because it continually erupts in rookeries and slums, the vectors of its spread mapping out a terrain of murderous indifference to poverty and public health. O'Connor proposes that Asiatic cholera dominates the imagery of mid-Victorian England for a number of interlinked reasons: it is a disease of the exponentially increasing urban geography of England, but its transcontinental routes of contamination also bring the imperial periphery into domestic spaces. Strong stomachs may be required for the sections where symptoms of the cholera are graphically described: it shrivelled the body within hours, discolouring the skin in ways that suggested to many Victorian commentators a kind of regression to the primitive or simian. This is a rich and suggestive set of readings. The second and third chapters are mirror images of each other. One deals with the medical discussion of breast cancer in women and the largely unsuccessful attempts to remove tumours, those dysfunctionally productive cells, from the body. The other deals with the discourse around amputees, the male products of war and industrial accidents, and the development of the prosthetic limbs that returned these bodies to utilitarian and productive states. The interest again lies in the detail: the discussions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 227-230
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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