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Peter J. Capuano and Sue Zemka (eds.), Victorian Hands: The Manual Turn in Nineteenth-Century Body Studies

Victorian Hands

The Manual Turn in Nineteenth-Century Body Studies

Edited by Peter J. Capuano and Sue Zemka

Victorian Hands promises to become an oft-referenced work in Victorian, body, and disability studies. Its through-line is a deep concern with the individual. What it means to be human, especially rejiggered in the face of human exceptionalism’s expiration date, will keep this collection’s readers thinking.” —Barbara Black, author of Hotel London (OSU Press, 2019)

 “Victorian Hands tells a remarkable story about the meaning and matter of the human hand. It touches on manual labor, tactile sensation, the materiality of writing, and the embodiment of agency, among many other innovative topics. For anyone interested in figural representation, this book illuminates the hand’s extraordinary capacities as both agent and object.” —William A. Cohen

Until recently, the embodied hand has paradoxically escaped the notice of nineteenth-century cultural and literary historians precisely because of its centrality. The essays in Peter J. Capuano and Sue Zemka’s new collection, Victorian Hands: The Manual Turn in Nineteenth-Century Body Studies, join an emerging body of work that seeks to remedy this. Casting new light on an array of well-known authors—Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, William Morris, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde—the volume explores the role of the hand as a nexus between culture and physical embodiment. The contributors to this volume address a wide range of manual topics and concerns, including those related to religion, medicine, science, industry, paranormal states, language, digital humanities, law, photography, disability, and art history. Examining hands, language, materiality, and agency, these contributors employ their expertise as Victorianists in order to understand what hands have to tell us about the cultural preoccupations of the nineteenth century and how the unique conditions of Britain at the time shaped the modern emergence of our cultural relationship with our hands.


James Eli Adams, Karen Bourrier, Aviva Briefel, Peter J. Capuano, Jonathan Cheng, Kate Flint, Pamela K. Gilbert, Tamara Ketabgian, J. Hillis Miller, Deborah Denenholz Morse, Daniel A. Novak, Julianne Smith, Herbert F. Tucker, and Sue Zemka

Peter J. Capuano is Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of Changing Hands: Industry, Evolution, and the Reconfiguration of the Victorian Body.

Sue Zemka is Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of Time and the Moment in Victorian Literature and Society.

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