Writing Dromomania in the Romantic Era: Nerval, Collins, and Charlotte Brontë

  • Sarah Mombert


This chapter explores the links between literature and a psychiatric condition that nineteenth-century alienism described as “dromomania” or “ambulatory mechanism.” It sketches out the role of pathological walking, both as a theme and as a writing pattern, in French and English romantic literature from the 1840s to the 1860s, through Gérard de Nerval’s writings, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. Dromomania reveals the relationship between socio-political conditions in France and in England, gendered constraints and literary genres (fiction/autobiography) and helps us understand how nineteenth-century literature questioned its own identity by integrating, both as worthy characters and as valuable readers, those who were traditionally excluded from high culture: madmen, women, and the mass public.


Literary Genre Dissociative Identity Disorder Lunatic Asylum Poor Taste Leisurely Walk 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Mombert
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon & CNRS (IHRIM)Lyon Cedex 07France

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