Charity and Condescension explores how condescension, a traditional English virtue, went sour in the nineteenth century, and considers the ways in which the failure of condescension influenced Victorian efforts to reform philanthropy and to construct new narrative models of social conciliation. In the literary work of authors like Dickens, Eliot, and Tennyson, and in the writing of reformers like Octavia Hill and Samuel Barnett, condescension—once a sign of the power and value of charity—became an emblem of charity’s limitations.
Charity and Condescension argues that, despite its reputation for idealistic self-assurance, Victorian charity frequently doubted its own operations and was driven by creative self-critique. Through sophisticated and original close readings of important Victorian texts, Siegel shows how these important ideas developed even as England struggled to deal with its growing underclass and an expanding notion of the state’s responsibility to its poor.
In 1837, when Queen Victoria came to the throne, no institution of higher education in Britain was open to women. By the end of the century, a quiet revolution had occurred: women had penetrated even the venerable walls of Oxford and Cambridge and could earn degrees at the many new universities founded during Victoria's reign. During the same period, novelists increasingly put intellectually ambitious heroines students, teachers, and frustrated scholars—at the center of their books. Educating Women analyzes the conflict between the higher education movement's emphasis on intellectual and professional achievement and the Victorian novel's continuing dedication to a narrative in which women's success is measured by the achievement of emotional rather than intellectual goals and by the forging of social rather than institutional ties.
Focusing on works by Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Anna Leonowens, and Thomas Hardy, Laura Morgan Green demonstrates that those texts are shaped by the need to mediate the conflict between the professionalism and publicity increasingly associated with education, on the one hand, and the Victorian celebration of women as emblems of domesticity, on the other. Educating Women shows that the nineteenth-century “heroines” of both history and fiction were in fact as indebted to domestic ideology as they were eager to transform it.
"A terrifically engaging collection of essays, which exemplifies the very best recent work in the history of reading and affect. The distinguished contributors explore ‘ the feeling of reading' throughout Victorian literature, showing how a broad range of works---novels, lyrics, critical essays---not only represent but also analyze and evoke the surprisingly varied experience of immersing oneself in a book. It's rare to encounter a collection of such consistently high quality: the feeling of reading it is one of rich and manifold pleasure."
---James Eli Adams, Columbia University
"This gathering of state-of-the-art work generates a convincing and compelling vision of the emerging state of the field."
---Daniel Hack, University of Michigan
The Feeling of Reading is the first collection to address how we think of reading today through a focus on Victorian reading practices and the individual experience of reading in the nineteenth century. It brings together essays from some of the most established writers in the field with contributions from younger scholars to provide new ways of thinking about this definitive moment. The collection moves from the general to the particular: from excavations of the material and intellectual conditions of Victorian reading to the consequences of such excavations in readings of individual texts. All of the contributors engage the crucial critical question of the shaping of readerly feeling. In addition, they address a set of interlocking issues central to understanding Victorian reading: Kate Flint explores the material and social settings of reading; Nicholas Dames and Leah Price consider the concrete realities of books and periodicals; and the consequences of the mass circulation of texts are explored by Flint, John Plotz, and Rachel Ablow. The temporality of consumption appears in the contribution of Dames as well as those of Catherine Robson and Herbert F. Tucker, who also address the implications of meter; and Ablow, Plotz, Stephen Arata, and Garrett Stewart investigate the notion of identification.
Rachel Ablow is Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
"The Lives of Machines is intelligent, closely argued, and persuasive, and puts forth a contention that will unsettle the current consensus about Victorian attitudes toward the machine."
---Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt University
Today we commonly describe ourselves as machines that "let off steam" or feel "under pressure." The Lives of Machines investigates how Victorian technoculture came to shape this language of human emotion so pervasively and irrevocably and argues that nothing is more intensely human and affecting than the nonhuman. Tamara Ketabgian explores the emergence of a modern and more mechanical view of human nature in Victorian literature and culture.
Treating British literature from the 1830s to the 1870s, this study examines forms of feeling and community that combine the vital and the mechanical, the human and the nonhuman, in surprisingly hybrid and productive alliances. Challenging accounts of industrial alienation that still persist, the author defines mechanical character and feeling not as erasures or negations of self, but as robust and nuanced entities in their own right. The Lives of Machines thus offers an alternate cultural history that traces sympathies between humans, animals, and machines in novels and nonfiction about factory work as well as in other unexpected literary sites and genres, whether domestic, scientific, musical, or philosophical. Ketabgian historicizes a model of affect and community that continues to inform recent theories of technology, psychology, and the posthuman.
The Lives of Machines will be of interest to students of British literature and history, history of science and of technology, novel studies, psychoanalysis, and postmodern cultural studies.
Cover image: "Power Loom Factory of Thomas Robinson," from Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures (London: Charles Knight, 1835), frontispiece.
DIGITALCULTUREBOOKS: a collaborative imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Library
The Victorians are known for their commitment to materialism, evidenced by the dominance of empiricism in the sciences and realism in fiction. Yet there were other strains of thinking during the period in the physical sciences, social sciences, and literature that privileged the spaces between the material and immaterial. This book examines how the emerging language of the “imponderable” helped Victorian writers and physicists make sense of new experiences of modernity. As Sarah Alexander argues, while Victorian physicists were theorizing ether, energy and entropy, and non-Euclidean space and atom theories, writers such as Charles Dickens, William Morris, and Joseph Conrad used concepts of the imponderable to explore key issues of capitalism, imperialism, and social unrest.