‘Criminals, Idiots, Women and Minors’: Deviant Minds in Deviant Bodies
In 1845 an American called Marion Sims described himself as ‘a colonizing and conquering hero’. He continues, ‘I saw everything as no man had ever seen before.’1 Sims was not, however, an explorer or naturalist, like the fictional heroes previously discussed, but a gynaecologist, describing his adventures into the unknown with the aid of a speculum. For, as already indicated, Victorian discovery was not restricted to geographical exploration or scientific study of the physical universe, but included the exploration and ‘mapping’ of the female body.2 And increasingly, the female mind, so vulnerable to infection from the diseases of the body, became the subject of detailed ‘scientific’ investigation too. The results suggested that the female body is always the potential source of deviance, particularly of sexual deviance, and consequently requires constant observation, in the form of surveillance, and treatment or even punishment. For this pathologised view of femininity was given the force of law. Legal discourse was, Carol Smart suggests, interwoven with the discourses of medicine and science ‘to bring into being the problematic female subject who is constantly in need of surveillance and regulation’.3
KeywordsBurning Ghost Defend Chloral Stake
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- 3.A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (Hutchinson, 2002), p. 439.Google Scholar
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