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Chapter 2 reads James Joyce’s Ulysses alongside the Victorian industrial novel. Deeply invested in social determination, Gaskell’s Mary Barton, nevertheless, offer sympathy as the way out of the class struggles it deplores. At the same time, sympathy is precisely one of those impurities inciting desire that Stephen explicitly disavows at the end of Portrait of the Artist. Sympathy, though, remains fundamental to Ulysses, intertwined with its reflections on an autonomy that is equal parts aesthetic and political. Sympathy is seen here to be a form of social coercion limiting Stephen’s artistic autonomy even as its absence is part of what prevents the Irish from uniting against their common enemies and achieving political autonomy. Contrasting Bloom with Stephen, I read the Blooms as a model of community that refuses to see autonomy and sympathy as opposed values, a form of family that counters the patriarchal family of the national imaginary.
The development of a scientific economic discourse and the expansion of the financial system and markets across the nineteenth century and through the British Empire proved to be rich sources of inspiration to novelists and poets. Fictional writers not only explored the themes of stock market crashes, imperial investments, industrial expansion, gambling and risk taking, fraudulent currencies, and bank failures, but also the failure of political economy to account properly for the inadequacies of the economic system and the people who fell victim to those failures. Examining the interplay, interaction, and coconstitution of literary and economic discourses in the nineteenth century, this chapter demonstrates the celebratory and critical ways economic writers, essayists, novelists, and poets represented and responded to political economy’s evolution. Reading the history of economic thought alongside the literary texts of the nineteenth century – this chapter argues – reveals their shared investments in value, representation, and human desires.
Focusing on the figure of William Gaskell, husband of Elizabeth, dissenting minister, reformist, and poet, this chapter discusses how the literature of ‘social problems’ interacted with the emerging field of sanitary science. The city of Manchester and the working-class family periodical are examples of ferments where ideas on what constitutes knowledge of questions relating to poverty and poor sanitation are channelled through an intricate relationship shared by medicine, reportage, and fiction. The poems of William Gaskell are read alongside the sanitary work of Thomas Southwood Smith. Both men contributed to the radical Howitt’s Magazine and both sought to reframe the social project in such a way that an analysis of the very means of knowing could underpin the representation of urban health problems. This was an epistemological strategy, and insight, that came about through the intersections of medicine and literature – through their shared spaces, vocabularies, and means of representation.
The development of the Victorian ghost story can be contextualised in relation to an array of interleaving discourses of the unseen: the science of optics; the advent of new, invisible technologies that constituted a form of modern supernatural; and the rise of Spiritualism and the pseudo-scientific investigation of the paranormal. Many ghost story writers explored, even embraced, the spectral effects of modernity and the ghost story flourished in an historical moment when scientific and technological progress was shadowed by the occult. For women writers, the ghost story is a tale of increasing visibility and opportunity: in a climate of social and political reform, women occupied a prominent role in the genre, exploiting the growing appetite for popular and marketable writing, particularly in shorter forms. The chapter explores how the Victorian ghost story provided an often oblique vision of gender and class inequalities, and raised fundamental questions about faith and knowledge.
Chapter 6 focuses on Elizabeth Gaskell’s late long novels Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) and Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story (1866). Our accounts of English provincial realism occasionally short-circuit these fictions because of Gaskell’s sometimes subtle and sometimes overt presentation of Christian theology; this chapter claims them within the genre of realism by focusing on their formal commonality with other realist novels and reverent natural history: the reverence for minute details and for the commonplace subject. Like natural history, Gaskell’s novels focus on, and show reverence for, the quotidian world and event; the chapter argues that behind the observation and rendering of the details of everyday reality there is reverence, and that the form of the novel (its “reverent form”) demonstrates a persistent religiosity. The chapter connects Gaskell to Charles Kingsley and explores her Unitarianism as illuminative of the presentation of the Quakerism and the overt natural theological references in Sylvia’s Lovers.
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