Uncanny or Marvelous?: The Fantastic and Somatoform Disorders in Wuthering Heights and Villette
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Drawing on historicized illness studies by scholars such as Sally Shuttleworth, Athena Vrettos, Elaine Showalter and others, I identify the ways in which Victorian illnesses (specifically hysteria) correlate with the fantastic in Wuthering Heights and Villette. To frame this argument, I apply twenty-first-century terminology of somatoform disorders to these illnesses to expose the connections between the moments of hesitation in Todorov’s theory of the fantastic and the characters’ isolation (from self and others), illnesses, and (in)ability to recover. In my discussion, I analyze the use of modalization and conditional phrasing by Emily and Charlotte Brontë to create a grammar of fantastic illness. I propose that framing hysteria through both somatoform disorders and the fantastic allows for a greater understanding of the cultural construction of illness.