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hunchback

hunchback According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Miss Mitford once said, ‘The only bearable hunch-back of my acquaintance is Richard the Third.’ When Anthony Sher was preparing to play this role, he did not wish to replay Charles Laughton's acclaimed film performance of Victor Hugo's hunchback Quasimodo. For him, this would have led to a portrayal of the King as having a head literally trapped inside his deformity. Seeking alternative models, Sher visited a number of patients suffering from spinal deformities, where he learnt about kyphosis and scoliosis. Kyphosis is characterized by a central hump, whereas in scoliosis the spine is twisted into an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape, forming a side hump with one shoulder up and forward. It was the latter condition that Sher felt was most convincing for Shakespeare's representation of Richard III.

Before 1779, all sorts of curvatures of the spine were confused together. It was not until the pioneering work of Percival Potts (1713–88), the greatest surgeon of his day, that a clear distinction was made between curvatures caused by ‘caries’ and other kinds. Spinal caries, known as Pott's Disease, is tuberculosis of the spinal column. Once prevalent among children, it attacks the vertebral bones and inter-vertebral fibro-cartilages. The disease can advance to the extent that the affected parts disintegrate. The characteristic bunching up causes the spine to curve into a bow. A distinctive hump can also develop. This is now rare in the developed world.

Degenerative changes in the spinal column associated with osteoporosis in older people can cause curvature and shortened stature. The spine can be affected indirectly by problems with other parts of the body, such as the hip joints, causing an abnormal stance and gait. Maintenance of a bad posture for sitting and walking can be responsible for causing minor irregularities of normal spinal curvature; physiotherapy, involving manipulation of the spine and exercise, can correct these problems. Such curves can present in adolescents or older children with no apparent underlying cause. A more severe form of scoliosis can occur — due to abnormalities such as spina bifida — which may be treated with a brace. Sometimes surgery is required, whereby metal rods are inserted into the back to straighten the spine.

Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831) is the most well-known novel about a hunchback, although this word did not appear in the original French title. It came to be included in later English translations. Film treatments from 1923 onwards have used the title ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. Laughton's sympathetic portrayal of the hunchback in 1939 contrasts with Shakespeare's representation of Richard III as a hunchback, who is demonized as ‘a lump of foul deformity’ by Lady Anne. The notion that this physical abnormality corresponded to Richard's moral deformity draws on the superstitious belief that it was a punishment for sin. In The Man who Laughs (1869), Victor Hugo advocates an acceptance and recognition of such abnormalities as a gateway to the sublime: ‘Now you are ugly, but hideous. Ugliness is insignificant, deformity is grand. Ugliness is a devil's grin behind beauty; deformity is akin to sublimity.’

Marie Mulvey-Roberts

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"hunchback." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hunchback." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hunchback

"hunchback." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hunchback

hunchback

hunchback, abnormal outward curvature of the spine in the thoracic region. It is also known as kyphosis and humpback, and in its severe form a noticeable hump is evident on the back. Hunchback may be congenital, but it can also result from poor posture, uneven growth of the spine, fracture of vertebrae, or deficiency disorders that lead to a weakening or collapse of the vertebrae. Treatment may consist of exercises to strengthen the vertebral column, the application of orthopedic devices to hold the bones in proper position, or corrective surgery to fuse the bones together.

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"hunchback." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hunchback." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hunchback

"hunchback." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hunchback

hunchback

hunch·back / ˈhənchˌbak/ • n. a back deformed by a sharp forward angle, forming a hump, typically caused by collapse of a vertebra. ∎ often offens. a person with such a deformity. DERIVATIVES: hunch·backed adj.

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"hunchback." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hunchback." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunchback-0

"hunchback." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunchback-0

hunchback

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"hunchback." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hunchback." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunchback

"hunchback." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunchback