Contested Spaces: The Heterotopias of the Victorian Sickroom

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Both the invalid and the sickroom pervade the writings of the Victorian period, particularly in fiction, medical guidebooks, and autobiographies. The sickroom is a space that separates the invalid from the healthy space of the house and defines the invalid body as other. However, as a space that is both marginalized and central, the sickroom is molded by the medical and social views of sickness and the individualized experience of illness. This article contextualizes the Victorian sickroom by conceptualizing it through the lens of Foucault’s heterotopia of deviation, which represents the medicalized act of dividing practices to physically separate those deemed sick from healthy people and spaces. The sickroom functions as a heterotopia in three ways: physical space created by medical authority; textual space contested through invalid narratives; and bodily space, whereby the sickroom is mapped onto the invalid’s body. Thus, the sickroom as heterotopia reveals the contentiousness of invalidism and the limitations of medical authority and power.



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