Date of Award

Fall 12-7-2023

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Eric Tribunella

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis explores the phenomenon of “carnival infection” depicted in Lucy Clifford’s “The New Mother” (1882) and the anonymously published The Mountebank’s Children (1866). Clifford’s “The New Mother” portrays how Turkey and Blue-Eyes, the sibling protagonists, become infected with a carnival sickness after encountering a village girl in proximity to a carnivalesque village. Similarly in The Mountebank’s Children, Freddy and Milly, the protagonists, are infected with a carnival sickness by their mother, who raises them in a circus. Throughout the nineteenth century, infection and disease transmission were major anxieties in Victorian society. This influenced Victorians to assign terms such as “poverty,” “dirty,” and “corrupt” to people who they believed were more inclined to contract an infection. “Poverty,” “dirty,” and “corrupt” were terms also associated with carnivals, which influenced people opposed to carnivals such as Evangelical Christians and Traditionists to believe carnivals were vectors of disease. “The New Mother” and The Mountebank’s Children not only demonstrate how carnival infection is transmitted, but they also suggest that cleanliness, avoidance, and prayer were actions that could be taken to prevent this infection.

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