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Watching Hannah: Sex, Horror and Bodily De-Formation in Victorian England

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Arthur Munby (1828–1910) was a Victorian gentleman from a respected family of Yorkshire lawyers. He left behind diaries that record his life-long obsession with working-class Victorian women, whom he interviewed, photographed and wrote about. This obsession led to his relationship with, and eventual secret marriage to, his maidservant Hannah Cullwick. Working women fascinat Arthur Munby (1828–1910) was a Victorian gentleman from a respected family of Yorkshire lawyers. He left behind diaries that record his life-long obsession with working-class Victorian women, whom he interviewed, photographed and wrote about. This obsession led to his relationship with, and eventual secret marriage to, his maidservant Hannah Cullwick. Working women fascinated Munby because they disrupted his Victorian ideal of femininity: their bodies were altered by physical exertion and dirt, and they were also often deformed by disease. Drawing not only on the diaries but also on a vast, untapped archive of documents, photographs, poems and sketches, Watching Hannah is far more than an account of a compulsive observer of working women and a fetishist of hard-working female hands, however. The author analyzes Munby's obsessions in relation to changing definitions of gender, sexual identity and class to reveal wider male preoccupations with femininity, the body, deformity, masculinity and – most of all – sexuality, at a pivotal point in European history.


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Arthur Munby (1828–1910) was a Victorian gentleman from a respected family of Yorkshire lawyers. He left behind diaries that record his life-long obsession with working-class Victorian women, whom he interviewed, photographed and wrote about. This obsession led to his relationship with, and eventual secret marriage to, his maidservant Hannah Cullwick. Working women fascinat Arthur Munby (1828–1910) was a Victorian gentleman from a respected family of Yorkshire lawyers. He left behind diaries that record his life-long obsession with working-class Victorian women, whom he interviewed, photographed and wrote about. This obsession led to his relationship with, and eventual secret marriage to, his maidservant Hannah Cullwick. Working women fascinated Munby because they disrupted his Victorian ideal of femininity: their bodies were altered by physical exertion and dirt, and they were also often deformed by disease. Drawing not only on the diaries but also on a vast, untapped archive of documents, photographs, poems and sketches, Watching Hannah is far more than an account of a compulsive observer of working women and a fetishist of hard-working female hands, however. The author analyzes Munby's obsessions in relation to changing definitions of gender, sexual identity and class to reveal wider male preoccupations with femininity, the body, deformity, masculinity and – most of all – sexuality, at a pivotal point in European history.

48 review for Watching Hannah: Sex, Horror and Bodily De-Formation in Victorian England

  1. 5 out of 5

    Piers Haslam

    An incredible insight into Victorian gender, class, and sexuality, all through the lens of one of the most bizarre and enduring relationships I've ever heard about (between Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby). It's straight out of a Paul Thomas Anderson film! An incredible insight into Victorian gender, class, and sexuality, all through the lens of one of the most bizarre and enduring relationships I've ever heard about (between Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby). It's straight out of a Paul Thomas Anderson film!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vena

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Anderson

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chavaleh

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  8. 5 out of 5

    The Lotus Readers

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jess Peazold

  10. 4 out of 5

    Afsaneh

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Arnold

  13. 5 out of 5

    juicy brained intellectual

  14. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ele-Beth Little

  16. 4 out of 5

    H T

  17. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jack Sargeant

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Munby waas a civil servant, writer and ‘connoisseur of working class women. #sexuality #horror

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zuzi

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ása

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cori Samuel

  26. 4 out of 5

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  27. 5 out of 5

    anna mae

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sam

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    Redbetty

  30. 5 out of 5

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    Fatima

  32. 5 out of 5

    Lanny

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    Chelsea

  34. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  35. 4 out of 5

    Juliana Philippa

  36. 5 out of 5

    Honna

  37. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  38. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

  39. 4 out of 5

    Will2power

  40. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

  41. 5 out of 5

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  42. 4 out of 5

    George Schmoe

  43. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  44. 5 out of 5

    Laureta

  45. 4 out of 5

    Dan's

  46. 4 out of 5

    Tara N.

  47. 4 out of 5

    Driftwood

  48. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

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