Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Eric Tribunella

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Emily Stanback

Committee Member 3 School



Despite Victorian and disability studies scholars’ recent interest in Charlotte M. Yonge, little scholarship focuses on her children’s fiction or the ways it engages with disability. This thesis brings a disability studies reading to Yonge’s under-studied novel, The History of Sir Thomas Thumb, in order to examine the ways the novel borrows from similar fairy tales and related contemporary phenomena, such as the public exhibition of dwarfs. These “people in miniature” have been examined, cooed over, ridiculed, and all too often compared to children both in and out of literature. While most critical work on Victorian-era dwarfs has examined ways they have been “enfreaked” by culture, borrowing from David Hevey and Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s work on “freakery,” little has been written examining literary dwarfs, specifically Tom Thumb, through the lens of disability studies. Yonge’s novel uniquely presents the figure of Tom Thumb as a complex and compelling disabled character, one influenced by his contemporary moment. By exploring how Tom destabilizes the boundaries between disabled and nondisabled, child and adult, or freakish and cute, we reveal new ways of thinking about Tom Thumb, literary dwarfs, and fairy tale figures more broadly. The History of Sir Thomas Thumb reveals the complexity of disability in Victorian-era fairy tale literature and shows that it is time that we reassess other wonder tales and folktales through a disability studies lens.


Available for download on Thursday, March 27, 2223