“Outbreak: Contagion and Culture in the Victorian Era: Introduction”

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Cover of the Journal of Victorian Literature and Culture, volume 27, issue 2, showing painting of red-headed woman playing a string instrument. She wears elegant green dress and the background is a blue wallpaper with flowers

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan guest edited, with Dr. Kari Nixon, the Journal of Victorian Culture‘s Rountable on “Outbreak: Contagion and Culture in the Victorian Era”, which asks how the Victorians approached contagion, examining the ways in which it became such a central preoccupation for a society already fixated upon health and illness and the transactions between life and death.

In their introduction to the roundtable, Dr. Krishnan and Dr. Nixon present how Victorian understandings of contagion remain a critical touchstone for thinking about medicine, history, narrative, and social and public policy, with evident applications to the current COVID-19 crisis.

“These essays approach a wide range of contagious encounters, asking how the Victorians negotiated them. All our contributors engage with our present crisis, so this Roundtable is broadly a work of applied history and cultural studies that asks: what can the nineteenth century teach us about our own historical moment?”, they explain. The collection is exceptional not only for the careful and exemplary scholarship, but because contagion’s afterlives in the cultural and political imagination are the subject of almost all our essays.

Read the journal article.