On Monday 11 November 2013, the Birkbeck Forum for Nineteenth-Century Studies will feature Tabitha Sparks (McGill) presenting on ‘The Symbolic Economy of Disease in Sensation and Satire: Lady Audley’s Secret and Dr Phillips: A Maida Vale Idyll’ from 6:00-8:00pm in the Peltz Gallery at 43 Gordon Square, London, UK, WC1H 0PD.
Julia Frankau’s Dr Phillips: A Maida Vale Idyll (1887) has generated a range of convincing explanations for this Jewish novelist’s belligerent treatment of late-century London Jews. Attention to the novel’s generic signs, and particularly its echoes of Mary Braddon’s foundational sensation novel Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), however, can inflect Frankau’s text with a somewhat different interpretation of its explicit racism. This paper follows the fortunes of the anti-heroines and the relationships between errant sexuality and medical management in both novels, and treats Braddon’s and Frankau’s representations of hereditary disease – insanity and syphilis – as narrative registers of moral censure and irony, respectively. This perspective tilts Dr Phillips towards parody, and so destabilizes a straightforward reading of Frankau’s racism.
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