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In this exploration of the significance of illness in the Victorian literary imagination Miriam Bailin maps the cultural implications and narrative effects of the sickroom as an important symbolic space in nineteenth-century life and literature. Dr Bailin draws on non-fictional accounts of illness by Julia Stephen, Harriet Martineau and others to illuminate the presentation of illness and ministration, patient and nurse, in the fiction of Charlotte Bront, Charles Dickens and George Eliot. She argues that the sickroom functions as an imagined retreat from conflicts in Victorian society, and that fictional representations of illness serve to resolve both social conflict and aesthetic tension. Her concentration on the sickroom scene as a compositional response to insistent formal as well as social problems yields fresh readings of canonical works and approaches to the constituent elements of Victorian realist narrative.
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