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    ‘Renounced all the decent tenderness of her sex’: spaces and spectacles of female madness in England, 1770-1833

    Jamieson, Anna (2021) ‘Renounced all the decent tenderness of her sex’: spaces and spectacles of female madness in England, 1770-1833. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Revising dominant stereotypes found in the feminisation of madness model, this thesis investigates the relationship between women, madness and spectacle in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England. Taking a case study approach, it entangles visual, material, spatial and documentary methodologies to interrogate responses to and resonances of female madness between 1770 and 1833. The introduction sets out the methodological opportunities and challenges that a study of this nature faces, whilst the first chapter lays out the cultural, social and political backdrop of the project. Chapter two argues that the cultural power and profusion of Margaret Nicholson, the would-be assassin of King George III, was driven by her contravention of expectations surrounding gender, class and madness. Applying museological perspectives such as ‘Freakery’ to her spectacularisation, I argue that these subversions were managed through frameworks that perpetuated distance and containment. Chapter three analyses the spatial, material and emotional dynamics of the public asylum tour, positing that asylums navigated or commodified the pleasurable torment of spectatorial sympathy through the body of the incarcerated madwoman. Moving into the culturally loaded arena of the late eighteenth-century private madhouse, chapter four examines the lives of four confined women: Louisa, the ‘Lady of the Haystack’, Dorothea Fellowes, Euphemia Boswell and Mary Lamb. It identifies how slippage between cultural models and historical experience coloured responses towards and experiences of private female confinement. Connecting fashion, sensibility, emotions and mental illness, chapter five provides a reassessment of the sentimental love-mad trope. It situates the fictional character of ‘Crazy Jane’ within a wider narrative of material culture, presenting her as a far more complex cultural figure than previous scholarship has acknowledged. Together, these chapters demonstrate that both fictionalised and living mad women functioned as vehicles for evolving sexual, social and political anxieties, serving as potent prompts for a cocktail of paradoxical emotions. Offering a fresh reading of the feminisation of madness through the interrogation of various stereotypes, its tight focus on the blurring of art and life sets it apart from existing work in the field. The result is a more nuanced account of the ways that women and mental illness were represented, understood and culturally managed in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: 2 Volumes: Volume I: Text, Volume II: Figures
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 15:12
    Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 17:59


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