Abnormal narratives: Disability and omniscience in the victorian novel

Clayton Carlyle Tarr

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

    Abstract

    In Charlotte Brontë's Villette (1853), Lucy Snowe is tasked to deliver a little basket to the mysterious shut-in Madame Walravens (396; ch. 34). After crossing an inhospitable threshold (398) that leads to an inhospitable salon (400), Lucy is told to wait for the lady of the house, who will serve as both grandmother and wolf in this Red Riding Hood revision. Caught in a dreamlike, fairy tale trance, Lucy focuses her attention on a curious picture, which give[s] way to expose an arched doorway and a winding staircase. The tapestry momentarily displaced, Lucy hears the taps of a walking-stick, and then spies a substance that eventually materializes into the distinct form of Madame Walravens: She might be three feet high, but she had no shape. Her face was large, set, not upon her shoulders, but before her breast; she seemed to have no neck. Lucy proceeds to call her host [h]unchbacked, and dwarfish - a barbarian queen, an uncouth thing, and an old witch of a grand-dame (399-402; ch. 34), who is as hideous as a Hindoo idol (473; ch. 39). Most important, Lucy notes the violence of a temper which deformity made sometimes demoniac (403; ch. 34). Madame Walravens's physical abnormalities make her not just the villain of a fairy tale, but a supernatural terror. Lucy may only confront the reality of disability by transforming it into a tale of magic (399; ch. 34) - one that she escapes by re-crossing the inhospitable threshold.

    LanguageEnglish (US)
    Pages645-664
    Number of pages20
    JournalVictorian Literature and Culture
    Volume45
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

    Profile

    Omniscience
    Fairytales
    Victorian Novel
    fairy tale
    disability
    narrative
    Idol
    Lucy Snowe
    Spies
    Terror
    Salon
    Red Riding Hood
    Physical
    Charlotte Brontë
    Supernatural
    Tapestry
    Temper
    Villain
    Barbarians
    Basket

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Literature and Literary Theory

    Cite this

    Abnormal narratives : Disability and omniscience in the victorian novel. / Tarr, Clayton Carlyle.

    In: Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol. 45, No. 3, 01.09.2017, p. 645-664.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

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