• Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester
      Marvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
    • Narrating the Victorian vagina: Charlotte Bronte and the masturbating woman

      Rees, Emma L. E.; University of Chester (Liverpool University Press, 2012-07-31)
      The Female Body in Medicine and Literature features essays that explore literary texts in relation to the history of gynaecology and women's surgery. Gender studies and feminist approaches to literature have become busy and enlightening fields of enquiry in recent times, yet there remains no single work that fully analyses the impact of women's surgery on literary production or, conversely, ways in which literary trends have shaped the course of gynaecology and other branches of women's medicine. This book will demonstrate how fiction and medicine have a long-established tradition of looking towards each other for inspiration and elucidation in questions of gender. Medical textbooks and pamphlets have consistently cited fictional plots and characterisations as a way of communicating complex or 'sensitive' ideas. Essays explore historical accounts of clinical procedures, the relationship between gynaecology and psychology, and cultural conceptions of motherhood, fertility, and the female organisation through a broad range of texts including Henry More's Pre-Existency of the Soul (1659), Charlotte Bronte's Villette (1855), and Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues (1998). The Female Body in Medicine and Literature raises important theoretical questions on the relationship between popular culture, literature, and the growth of women's medicine and will be required reading for scholars in gender studies, literary studies and the history of medicine. This collection explores the complex intersections between literature and the medical treatment of women between 1600 and 2000. Employing a range of methodologies, it furthers our understanding of the development of women's medicine and comments on its wider cultural ramifications. Although there has been an increase in critical studies of women's medicine in recent years, this collection is a key contributor to that field because it draws together essays on a wide range of new topics from varying disciplines. It features, for instance, studies of motherhood, fertility, clinical procedure, and the relationship between gynaecology and psychology. Besides offering essays on subjects that have received a lack of critical attention, the essays presented here are truly interdisciplinary; they explore the complex links between gynaecology, art, language, and philosophy, and underscore how popular art forms have served an important function in the formation of 'women's science' prior to the twenty-first century. This book also demonstrates how a number of high-profile controversies were taken up and reworked by novelists, philosophers, and historians. Focusing on the vexed and convoluted story of women's medicine, this volume offers new ways of thinking about gender, science, and the Western imagination. This chapter is an essay on Villette read through a gynaecological lens.
    • 'This most humane commerce': Lace-making during the Famine

      Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester (Liverpool University Press, 2018-11-30)
      Fintan O’Toole includes a lace collar from Youghal, Co. Cork in his A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, noting it ‘epitomises one of the more remarkable achievements of Irish women in the second half of the nineteenth century – the creation from scratch of a world-class craft industry’. It was an industry largely founded in response to the Famine, by philanthropic upper- and middle-class Irish women who recognised the failure of famine relief measures for women and girls in particular; the Youghal lace collar is a legacy of the lace school founded there by a nun during the Famine. Lace-making offered rescue not just for them, but their families; in 1852, among fishing families in Blackrock, ‘the strong and powerful father’ and ‘the vigorous son’ were now ‘protected from hunger and misery by the fingers of the feeble child, and saved from the workhouse by her cheerful and untiring toil’. This chapter will examine the representation of textile and lace making during the Famine in texts such as Mary Anne Hoare’s ‘The Knitted Collar’, Susanna Meredith’s The Lacemakers, and Brother James’s Eva O’Beirne, or the Little Lacemaker, as narratives of self-help, critiques of inadequate state intervention, calls for support of the trade and charitable donations, and an impetus to emigration. It will also consider the relationship between depictions of mid-nineteenth-century Irish textile workers and the representation of seamstresses in Victorian literature more widely.