Tag Archives: AAH New Voices Conference

AAH New Voices Conference 2014

aah2014titleTheme: A Picture of Health: Representations and Imaginations of Wellbeing and Illness.

Talk Time: 20 Minutes.

Title: Class Contagions and Canine Culprits: Rapid Representations and the Middle Class Imagination in Victorian Britain.

Abstract:

“in all large towns there are dangerous classes among the dogs as well as among the human population […] whose delight it is to bark and bite in an indiscriminate manner, and who, if they are once affected by the fatal virus, become at once active propagators of it far and wide”

‘Dogs and Dog Law’, All The Year Round, 1886, p. 426.

During the Victorian period rabies (or hydrophobia, as it was known in humans) gained a lot of momentum in the imagination of the public. Media depictions were frequent, laws were passed, and people had many different ideas about what turned a dog mad.

Yet despite public concerns regarding rabies, ‘mad dogs’, and the notorious ‘dog days’ of summer, there were very few incidents of confirmed rabies throughout the period. What, then, caused such avid fear and attention from the Victorian public?

This talk will explore one of the factors.

Looking at imagery representing rabies, this talk will propose that the middle classes feared rabies as more than just a disease. Instead rabies became viewed as a contagion—propagated by the lower and dangerous classes—which had the potential to attack and corrupt the wellbeing of middle class bodies, values and morals.

This middle class imagination, it will be proposed, was reinforced by visual representations of rabies; which served to strengthen notions of mad dogs as violent, law-breaking, and dangerous curs of the streets rather than the afflicted and ailing animals that they were.

aah2014image

The New Police Regulations of Dogs (Detail), The Graphic, 1885, p.697.

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AAH New Voices Conference 2011

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Theme: Madness & Revolt

Talk Time: 20 Minutes

Title: The Dog Days: Canine Class Contagions and Political Parodies in Victorian Visual Culture

Abstract:
 “The pattern of public response to rabies outbreaks demonstrated the extent to which the disease existed in the realm of rhetoric. The first alert was ordinarily sounded by the press, rather than by medical authorities or government officials, and it was often couched in terms that seemed calculated to inspire and exasperate fear”

Ritvo, Harriet, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age, Cambridge, U.K.; Harvard University Press, 1987, Pg. 171.

In Victorian Britain rabies and hydrophobia, its then human counterpart, provoked a myriad of reactions in both academic fields and the public sphere.

Amidst these reactions grew a sense of magnitude to the disease which vastly surpassed the objective realities- a growth constructed and propagated through representations of dogs parodied in the popular media of the time, as highlighted in the above quote.

This paper aims to explore this sensation of Victorian visual parodies of canine madness through an exploration of the press’s representations of mad dogs- Proposing that the conceptual construction of the rabid dog became used as a conduit for social and political commentary.

This shall include a heavy focus on class anxieties; exploring middle class fears that rabies had the ability to infect and corrupt, not only the body, but also the integrity and class of society, demonstrating representations of this in visual media.

The paper shall then progress to look at the mad dog’s representation, and prompting of, criticisms of the legal system- through the visual analysis of encounters between dogs and mockingly inept and overwhelmed Police Officers turned Dog Catchers.

The paper will end on the exploration of why rabies and the madness of dogs prompted such swift interaction and embellishment from the Press, and such a public unrest, proposing media parody as a form of revolt.

Cave Canem, Or Dog(berry) Law, Punch (London, England), Saturday, September 14, 1867; pg. 106.

Cave Canem, Or Dog(berry) Law, Punch (London, England), Saturday, September 14, 1867; pg. 106.