In the medical humanities, there has been a growing interest in diagnosing disease in fictional characters, particularly with the idea that characters in Charles Dickens’s novels may be suffering from diseases recognised today. However, an area that deserves greater attention is the representation of women’s ageing as disease in Victorian literature and medical narratives. Even as Victorian doctors were trying to cure age-related illnesses, they continued to employ classical notions of unhealthy female ageing. For all his interest in medical matters, the novelist Charles Dickens wrote about old women in a similar vein. Using close reading to analyse Victorian gerontology alongside Charles Dickens’s novels Dombey and Son (1848) and Great Expectations (1861), this article examines narratives of female ageing as disease. It concludes by pointing to the ways that Victorian gerontology impacts on how we view women’s ageing as ‘diseased’ today.
- visual diagnosis