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‘A Curious Dance Round a Curious Tree’: Agency and Amusement in Victorian Asylums, Ute Oswald

The perception of the Victorian asylum is dominated by images of manacles, leeches and padded cells. Yet this obfuscates a very different side of these institutions; throughout the nineteenth century a vast array of entertainment was offered in line with new treatment options. This paper will shed light on these activities by discussing Charles Dickens’s article ‘A Curious Dance Round a Curious Tree’ (Household Words, 17 January 1852) alongside an illustration of Christmas celebrations at St Luke’s Hospital (Illustrated Times, 19 January 1861) to investigate whether these embodied a real opportunity to exercise agency or whether they merely represented another tool of social control.

Date created: 
Friday, May 1, 2015
Attribution for this resource:
‘A Curious Dance Round a Curious Tree’: Agency and Amusement in Victorian Asylums, Ute Oswald, All rights reserved.