This article analyzes the novels Barnaby Rudge and David Copperfield as they engage with the contemporary psychiatric discourse of moral management, which significantly reconceptualized madness and its treatment in the early nineteenth century. It examines the novels—alongside Dickens's journalism and some medical texts—as works that trace the fluctuating boundaries separating sanity from insanity and ability from disability. Barnaby Rudge, written at the onset of popular enthusiasm for moral management, charts a conception of insanity in flux as traditional and Romantic models of the mind clashed with more clinical definitions and new modes of treatment. In its handling of Mr. Dick, David Copperfield works more actively to domesticate madness within a regime of moral management, reframing the insane as patients subject to rehabilitation. In light of recent scholarship in the field of disability studies, this article argues that Dickens's mid-century narratives thus contribute to a radically revised cultural construction of insanity as disability.

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