Issue 2 (January 2020):

Resistance in the Long-Nineteenth Century

“Tired Inside”: Illness as Social Resistance in George MacDonald’s Adela Cathcart
Jess Lewis (Independent Scholar)
Adela, Cathcart, Gender, Illness, Femininity, Resistance.
Academic discussion has long limited the works of George to their function as fairy tales and didactic narratives. This article explores the notion of illness as a form of resistance against the confines of upper-class femininity in MacDonald’s Adela Cathcart (1864). The article suggests that Adela’s mysterious illness, diagnosed as “moral atrophy”, is symptomatic of limits enforced by contemporary expectations for women, and that this incapacitating illness prevents Adela from fulfilling these expectations. Whether conscious or unconscious, the article explores both, Adela’s resistance against the duties of performative femininity necessitate her management by an all-male storytelling club who are tasked with restoring Adela to her role as dutiful daughter and suitable marriage-prospect. I argue that MacDonald uses illness to query contemporary gender ideals through Adela’s corporeal legibility, read through the lens of patriarchal medical theory.
Author Biography:

Jessica Lewis graduated from the University of South Wales in 2010 with a First Class Honours degree in English literature before continuing on to gaining a Masters from Cardiff University, specialising in Victorian literature. In February 2019 she received her PhD from the University of South Wales after successfully defending her thesis, titled Exposed Flesh: Metaphors of Cannibalism in English Literature 1840-1900. 



Click here to download the article


Romance, Revolution and Reform is an interdisciplinary PGR-led  journal specialising in the long-nineteenth century and run in association with the Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research.

The Journal is committed to helping new researchers publish their work in addition to acting as a forum for the discussion of new ideas in the field of nineteenth-century Studies.

ISSN 2517-7850


Editor in Chief: Emma Hills

Deputy Editor: Gemma Holgate

University of Southampton, UK

SO17 1BJ


  • Twitter Social Icon

To sign up for updates on the latest RRR news, email

RRR is compliant with GDPR 2018 and DPA 2018. We will never share your information with a third party.

             Twitter: @rrrjournal

All work published under CC-BY-NC 4.0 rules. Our authors retain all copyright to their intellectual property. For rules on re-publication of work in RRR, see our policies