Registration Open: Abnormality and the Abnormal in the Nineteenth Century

The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates

‘Neither moral philosophy nor poetry condescends to the monstrous or the abnormal,’
Thomas De Quincey, 1848.

CNCS Postgraduate Conference

09.50 – 17.00 | Thursday 7 May 2015 | Kenworthy Hall, St. Mary’s College, Durham University

Abnormality and the Abnormal

The words ‘abnormal’ and ‘abnormality’ first emerged in the nineteenth century; contemporary usage reflects their pejorative connotations.

The first recorded use, in 1817, contrasts ‘abnormal’ with ‘healthy’, suggesting that ‘abnormality’ was initially a medical term. In medical discourse it became an ostensibly objective descriptor – in 1847 The Lancetdefined abnormality as ‘something that is abnormal; an instance of irregularity.

However, the term eventually came to mean an aberration from any kind of ‘normal’ concept, behaviour, expectation, or way of being: indeed, the construction of ‘normal,’ and the values associated with normality, is itself implicated in nineteenth century constructions of the abnormal.

This one-day interdisciplinary conference aims to explore categorisations, explanations…

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