In Reading for Health: Medical Narratives and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, Erika Wright argues that the emphasis in Victorian Studies on disease as the primary source of narrative conflict that must be resolved has obscured the complex reading practices that emerge around the concept of health. By shifting attention to the ways that prevention of illness and the preservation of well-being operate in fiction, both thematically and structurally, Wright offers a new approach to reading character and voice, order and temporality, setting and metaphor. As Wright reveals, while canical works by Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Martineau, and Gaskell register the pervasiveness of a conventional therapeutic form of action and mode of reading, they demonstrate as well an equally powerful investment in the achievement and maintenance of health -what Wright refers to as a hygienic narrative-both in personal and domestic conduct and in social interaction of the individual within the community.
Erika Wright is a clinical instructor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. Her articles have appeared in such journals as Studies in the Novel and the Midwest Modern Language Association Journal.