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Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart$
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Kirstie Blair

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273942.001.0001

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Proved on the Pulses: Heart Disease in Victorian Literature and Culture

Proved on the Pulses: Heart Disease in Victorian Literature and Culture

(p.23) 1 Proved on the Pulses: Heart Disease in Victorian Literature and Culture
Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart

Kirstie Blair (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the culture of the pathological heart in Victorian literature and medicine. It argues that heart disease was both a fashionable topic for medical research, as demonstrated by the rapid advances in diagnosis and classification made in this period, and a subject of fascination among the general public. Tracing the tension between material and spiritual accounts of the heart in medical discourse, and connections between the discourse of the heart and that of the nervous system and the brain, it considers how medical accounts of the heart were influenced by literature, as well as vice versa. Heart disease was strongly associated with literary pursuits, and, as shown here, many leading Victorian figures – including Barrett Browning, Ruskin, Christina Rossetti, Mark Pattison, Arthur Hallam, and more – either were or believed themselves to be sufferers.

Keywords:   medicine, pathology, Rossetti, Pattison, Hallam

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