Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Anthony Jarrells


This dissertation surveys disabled masculinity in Victorian fiction. I track how masculinity became contingent on labor-based able-bodiedness in the mid-nineteenth century. My interpretations of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, George Augustus Sala’s “The Ghost in the Double Room,” and Lucas Malet’s The History of Sir Richard Calmady delve into the cultural anxieties that men faced about becoming disabled and, by proxy, failing to perform a masculine gender role. However, through my analysis of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and George Eliot’s Adam Bede, I show how some disabled men exploited their disabilities to subvert their culture’s prevailing definitions of manliness. In my readings of Dinah Craik’s John Halifax, Gentleman and Charlotte Yonge’s The Heir of Redclyffe, I examine how this subversion emerges in the Victorian novel’s marriage and domestic plotlines. Authors often exclude disabled men from marriage plotlines over concerns that they might pass their disability onto potential descendants. Disabled men consequently allowed authors to develop alternative households based on love and mutual care instead of reproduction.

Available for download on Monday, August 05, 2024