Eszter Ureczky, senior lecturer at the Department of British Studies, Institute of English and American Studies, University of Debrecen, Hungary. Her main teaching and research areas include contemporary Anglophone and Eastern European fiction and film with a theoretical background in biopolitics, medical humanities, disability studies, and food studies. She defended her doctoral dissertation, Cultures of Pollution: Epidemic Disease and the Biopolitics of Contagion in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction in 2018, at the University of Debrecen.
Patricia Duncker’s 1999 neo-Victorian novel is a fictional biography of the legendary Victorian military surgeon, James Miranda Barry, rumored to be a hermaphrodite. Duncker’s postmodern feminist fiction recreates the medical discourse, as well as the body and sexual politics of the Victorian era by writing these nineteenth-century somatic ideologies onto the ambiguously gendered body of Barry. Interrogating the poetic and political strategies of creating medicine as a masculinized profession from a cultural studies point of view, the essay argues that Duncker’s novel can be contextualized within a recent tendency in contemporary British fiction that could be hypothesized as medico-historical metafiction, indirectly addressing twenty-first-century biopolitical questions about the cultural inscription of gender roles and bodily normality by (re)telling a Victorian narrative. These questions are examined from three aspects: the neo-Victorian historical novel as a feminist genre, the androgyne as a late-Victorian subtype of the grotesque freak, and nineteenth-century female identities as the reservoir of disempowering pseudo-choices. (EU)