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victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 148 able, from traditional home and family tasks through to land management and local government. Her war novels in particular emphasize women’s competence at traditionally male jobs.At the same time, however, she remained staunchly anti-suffrage, a founder of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League, working against the vote right up to the last moment. It did not make her popular. Even the issues in her novels were so specific to the time of writing—and so filled with details of the latest literature, fashions and technology—that they quickly seemed old-fashioned to her readers. Nor did herVictorian form and style alter in line with early twentieth-century literary trends. It is all too easy to forget that she was writing at the same time as Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and D. H. Lawrence. Yet it is unfair to dismiss Mrs. HumphryWard so simply.Wilt’s book draws out the complexity of her writing, showing that far from being nakedly polemical , her books are in the main thoroughly fair in their presentation of issues, surrounding the protagonists with minor characters designed to bring out different aspects of the matter in hand. In this way Robert Elsmere’s religious doubts are reflected and challenged by a sceptical local squire, a fanatical preacher, and a wife who adheres strictly to the Bible; and Delia Blanchflower is a suffragette surrounded not only by fanatics but also by women prepared to await the franchise as their just entitlement as well as by those who take no interest in it whatsoever. In this practice of allowing the reader to see all sides of a question and the internal processes by which an individual arrives at new forms of belief, particularly in her earlier novels, she can truly be said to have been ahead of her time. Judith Wilt’s book is a reminder that Mrs. Humphry Ward does not deserve the obscurity into which she has fallen. Va l Shepher d University of Liverpool • Reading the Brontë Body: Disease,Desire,and the Constraints of Culture by BethTorgerson; pp. x + 180. NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. $65.00 cloth. Has it really taken us this long, have we had to wait until 2006, for a book titled Reading the Brontë Body to be published? In academic circles, “body criticism” has been in fashion for a few decades, thanks in large part to Foucault’s theories of discipline, punishment, and sexuality. Summarizing the centrality of the body to cultural studies generally (in a review tellingly, if optimistically, titled “Epitaph for the Body Politic”), Erin O’Connor writes that“the body emerges as a dramatic theoretical character capable of striking any number of poignant attitudes: there are, to name a very few,The Body in Pain, Unstable Bodies, Bodies Under Siege,Virtual Bodies, Recovering Bodies, 149 Reviews Extraordinary Bodies, and Bodies That Matter.” Anyone conversant with the saga of the Brontë family would be quick to predict a few scholarly matches made in heaven.After the Brontë mother, Maria, died of cancer, the Reverend Patrick Brontë—who would eventually become nearly blind—stood at the helm as his six children died: Branwell, the highly prized, beloved son, drinking and drugging himself to death, and five daughters dying either in youth or in young adulthood of consumption (tuberculosis) or, in Charlotte Brontë’s case, of phthisis, a progressive wasting disease. Even before they sickened and died, the Brontës were on notoriously good terms with pain—the family biography is peppered with accounts of coughs, colds, fevers, bilious attacks, and a variety of nervous disorders. In one now legendary episode, Emily Brontë—“no coward soul” was she—purportedly cauterized herself with a red-hot iron after being bitten by a possibly rabid dog. The Brontës clearly cornered the market on Bodies in Pain. In Reading the Brontë Body, Beth Torgerson seeks to make sense of the Brontë body thematic by exploring the representation of disease and illness in the novels of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë.The move from“body” direct to “illness” might command more explanation, but she enlists medical anthropology (and more specifically the work ofArthur Kleinman...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 148-150
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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