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Joyce, Medicine, and Modernity$
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Vike Martina Plock

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813034232

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813034232.001.0001

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Jack the Ripper and the Family Physician

Jack the Ripper and the Family Physician

Gynecology and Domestic Medicine in “Penelope”

(p.130) 7 Jack the Ripper and the Family Physician
Joyce, Medicine, and Modernity

Vike Martina Plock

University Press of Florida

In “Penelope,” James Joyce uses a controversial debate on women's so-called diseases as a provocative intertext for the representation of Molly Bloom's sexuality. Her recollection of a gynecological visit, which took place in 1888, responds explicitly to the complex turn-of-the-century discourse that related womanhood, pathology, and social politics. Further, it recalls fin-de-siècle fears about medical abuse that were most sensationally captured in the image of Jack the Ripper. While doctors multiplied the number of surgical operations performed on women's anesthetized bodies, feminists and antivivisectionists ferociously condemned both the ideological foundation for and the consequences of the mutilations resulting from doctors' surgical interventions. Surprisingly, though, as “Penelope” reveals, the argument about women's social inferiority that the biological model had established received support by another, much more subtle medical interventionism. Patent medicine forms an equally central medical subtext in “Penelope”.

Keywords:   Penelope, James Joyce, gynecology, Molly Bloom, sexuality, Jack the Ripper, social inferiority, biological model, medical interventionism, patent medicine

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