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Death at St Bernard's: anti-vivisection, medicine and the Gothic

Waddington, Keir ORCID: 2013. Death at St Bernard's: anti-vivisection, medicine and the Gothic. Journal of Victorian Culture 18 (2) , pp. 246-262. 10.1080/13555502.2013.778209

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Displaying a Gothic fascination with the misapplication of science, Edward Berdoe's St Bernard's: The Romance of a Medical Student (1887) was one of a number of novels in the 1880s that repackaged the horrors of vivisection for public consumption. Although the novel can be dismissed as derivative, it departed from standard themes found in other anti-vivisection texts. Through the device of a hero struggling with the moral implications of science and the reckless treatment of patients, St Bernard's challenged the legitimacy of the teaching hospital. The present article moves debate about the Gothic, literature and science beyond well-known texts by Stevenson and Wells to examine how St Bernard's combined ‘the methods of science with the methods of romance’ and shifted the anti-vivisection narrative into the hospital. In locating the novel within anti-vivisectionist uses of fiction and late-Victorian anxieties about experimental medicine and the teaching hospital, the article explores the novel's relationship with other anti-vivisection texts and Gothic fiction, and examines what it says about scientific practices and mentalities. St Bernard's fashioned a very different hospital from existing representations to warn readers of how brutish students and cruel doctors tortured patients. In doing so, the novel recast the teaching hospital as an uncanny and dangerous place.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Uncontrolled Keywords: anti-vivisection; experimental medicine; Gothic fiction; literature and science; patients; teaching hospitals
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 1355-5502
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 10:02

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