Southwater One Building, Southwater Square
Modern attitudes towards the Victorian freak show are usually, understandably, very critical: we condemn Victorian perceptions of ‘freakish’ bodies as being exploitative. However, when turning to the detail of certain performers’ lives, can a more complex picture emerge?
This talk examines the life of Anna Swan, exhibited as ‘the Canadian Giantess’ on both sides of the Atlantic during the nineteenth century. Dr Helen Davies, Senior Lecturer in English Literature from the University of Wolverhampton suggests that re-reading newspaper accounts of her British tours (1869; 1871) offers some surprising challenges to traditional Victorian ideas of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class, as well as more modern understandings of disability.