"Cribb'd, Cabined, and Confined": Fear, Claustrophobia and Modernity in Richard Marsh's Urban Gothic Fiction

Minna Vuohelainen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


    „Neurotics‟ and „Ghosts‟: Discursive Overlap in Medicine and the Gothic In an article on “Nervous Diseases and Modern Life”, published in the Contemporary Review in 1895, T. Clifford Allbutt explores the contemporary notion that “affections of the nervous system are on the increase”. Allbutt lists a number of “nervous maladies” that contemporaries connected with modernity, including “nervous debility”, “hysteria”, “neurasthenia”, “fretfulness”, “melancholy” and “unrest” – all of which were supposedly resulting from “living at a high pressure, the whirl of the railway, the pelting of telegrams, the strife of business, the hunger for riches, the lust of vulgar minds for coarse and instant pleasures, the decay of those controlling ethics handed down from statelier and more steadfast generations”. Allbutt concludes his bitterly sarcastic commentary on the “outcry of the modern neurotic” by rejecting such concerns over the mental, moral and physical health of the nation. “Rich and idle people”, he states, “run, as they always did, after the fashionable fad of the day; what was „liver‟ fifty years ago has become „nerves‟ to-day.” Nervous ailments, he contends, are characterised by the sufferer‟s “restlessness, quackishness and craving for sympathy”, and “the intellectual acuteness of many of these sufferers, the swift transmission of news by the press, and the facilities of modern locomotion all favour the neurotic traffic.” Nervous illness, thus, has become a fashionable diagnosis with the “inquisitive and peremptory generation” of the fin de siècle: “our neurotics have begun like ghosts to walk, and we exclaim that the earth is full of them!”
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-36
    JournalJournal of Literature and Science
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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