Stephanie and Nancy will be presenting a paper entitled “Writing of the Body: gendering sickness and health in schoolgirl novels” at the International Standing Conference for the History of Education, Chicago, IL (USA) in August.
This paper will draw on the sources we are using in the Transnational Femininities project to consider the gendered nature of wellness and illness as it is written onto the bodies of the characters. We will discuss how physical strength and frailty serve as important markers in the plots of these books. Moreover, we will explore how fictional sources served an educative role, raising readers’ awareness of contemporary concerns. In British and American school and college stories, the health and well-being of the students is an important theme. In the American tales, such as the Marjorie Dean series, basketball is the central physical activity, though there are references to golf and tennis, and the characters often take long walks in bucolic settings. Health, and illness, is an even more dominant theme in British stories, indeed the plotlines depend on it: there are frail students, illnesses and injuries that occur due to adventures on frozen lakes and perilous mountain paths, and ill relatives lurking in the background.