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From dispossession to dissection: The bare life of the english pauper in the age of the anatomy act and the new poor law
Published in Indiana University
Volume: 59
Issue: 2
Pages: 235 - 259
This essay responds to current scholarship as it explains the poor person’s horror of dissection in the Victorian period as part of a long and complex process of deprivation. Working with the Anatomy Act (1832) and the New Poor Law (1834) as its backdrop, this essay examines three anxieties that were inseparable from the pauper’s existence: the social embarrassment attendant on the loss of personal belongings, especially clothes; the humiliation forced upon workhouse inmates by the New Poor Law diet; and the existential foreboding triggered by the prospect of postmortem dissection. It culminates in a consideration of the early works of Charles Dickens, who found in fiction a set of strategies that allowed early Victorians simultaneously to register and to compensate for these anxieties. © 2017 The Trustees of Indiana University.
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