Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative
Drawing on work in critical theory, feminism and social history, this book traces the lines of tension shot through Victorian culture by the fear that the social world was being reduced to a display window behind which people, their actions and their convictions were exhibited for the economic appetites of others. Affecting the most basic elements of Victorian life - the vagaries of desire, the rationalisation of social life, the gendering of subjectivity, the power of nostalgia, the fear of mortality, the cyclical routines of the household - the ambivalence generated by commodity culture organizes the thematic concerns of these novels and the society they represent. Taking the commodity as their point of departure, chapters on Thackeray, Gaskell, Dickens, Eliot, Trollope, and the Great Exhibition of 1851 suggest that Victorian novels provide us with graphic and enduring images of the power of commodities to affect the varied activities and beliefs of individual and social experience.
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