Victorian Literature Class
by
Ruth Livesey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0015

Introduction

The presence and force of class difference in Victorian literature and culture are both self-evident and surprisingly difficult to pin down. They are the source of Pip’s anxieties in Great Expectations; the resource for Jane Eyre to resist the slights of Mrs. Reed and Blanche Ingram and distance herself from the household servants; they give burning importance to Margaret Hale’s discovery of what a knobstick, exactly, is in North and South. But what is class? Is it a series of preset social categories into which one is born; a process of collective identity formation and consciousness; something determined by how one makes a living; a state of mind shaped by intimate psychic experience; a rhetorical construct and set of social representations; or a matter of extreme material differences between poverty and wealth? It can be all of these things, and this bibliography is designed to give space to each of these approaches, from class consciousness and “making” to the archetypes and ideals of different social identities such as the gentleman, from working-class self-representation to attempts by middle-class social investigators to spread sweetness and light to the masses. From the 1960s onward it was the identification of the 19th century with the emergence of the modern tripartite class system, class consciousness, and the class struggles of the capitalist era that led to a lively intersection of social history, urban studies, and Victorian literary studies on the part of Marxist influenced scholars from a range of disciplines. Put simply, Victorian literature mattered, as did the Victorian period more generally, because it was the source of modern class society, the processes that continued to shape 20th-century society and were driving history into the future. Given this analysis, it is perhaps not surprising that the urban proletariat tends to dominate studies of class in Victorian literature. This is reflected to an extent in this bibliography, as indeed it was in two special issues published in 2000 and 2001 dedicated to constructions of Victorian classes in the leading journal Victorian Literature and Culture, in which eleven of the seventeen articles primarily focused on the representation of labor and the working classes. Although there is much to be learned about middle-class life, writing, and values from a vast swathe of critical studies—particularly those concerned with gender relations—the ones selected here are the relative few that give central place to class as a marked category of existence. The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed challenges to the understanding of the centrality of class to historical change in the wake of the collapse of Communist regimes and the post-structuralist revisions of Marxist theory. But as the works cited in this bibliography indicate, well before the watershed year of 1989, scholars from a variety of disciplines were developing fine-grained approaches that insisted on the importance of experience, subjectivity, and intimate life in the understanding and writing of class. At the same time new terms, such as populism, emerged to help us understand the structures through which historical actors came to feel their way into collective relationships.

General Overviews

There is no single source that can provide an overview of this complex subject, but the works in this section are good starting places for the several aspects of class and literature that will be mapped out in the rest of this bibliography. Crossick 1991 is a concise introduction to the terminology and descriptive content of different aspects of class hierarchy in Victorian Britain, while Adams 2005 is a very well-informed brief survey of class in the Victorian novel. Poovey 1995 gives a rich sense of the competing forces and representations that shaped ideas of the social body at a crucial period of class formation. Keating 1971 examines how the working classes were represented by middle-class writers, while Vicinus 1974 reveals the breadth of working-class writing and self-representation in the Victorian period. Gagnier 1991 takes that self-representation as the center of its study of class and subjectivity, developing the critique of Marxist and structuralist accounts of class substantially developed in socialist-feminist criticism such as Kaplan 1986. Robbins 2007, like Adams 2005, has a richly instructive focus on the particular anxieties and aspirations of class mobility.

  • Adams, James Eli. “The Boundaries of Social Intercourse: Class in the Victorian Novel.” In A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel. Edited by Francis O’Gorman, 44–70. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

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    An excellent starting place for this subject, Adams’s rich and very well-informed analysis focuses on class in canonical Victorian fiction, and supports this with a good introduction to the key historical scholarship and debates on class and a refusal to oversimplify this complex field.

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    • Crossick, Geoffrey. “From Gentleman to the Residuum: Languages of Social Description in Victorian Britain.” In Language, History, and Class. Edited by Penelope Corfield, 150–178. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

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      A precise, clear, and wide-ranging consideration of the shifting terminologies of class distinctions in the 19th century.

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      • Gagnier, Regenia. Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in Britain, 1832–1920. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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        A compelling work examining the articulation of class and subjectivity in a range of 19th-century narrative forms. Includes chapters on class and the body, the representation of the working class in 19th-century fictions, working-class autobiography, and school.

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        • Kaplan, Cora. “Pandora’s Box: Subjectivity, Class, and Sexuality in Socialist Feminist Criticism.” In Sea Changes: Essays on Culture and Feminism. By Cora Kaplan, 147–176. London: Verso, 1986.

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          This remains an astute analysis of the productive tensions between traditional, Marxist influenced analyses of class in literature and the necessary investment of feminism in ideas of subjectivity and selfhood. Kaplan finishes out her analysis with illuminating references to Jane Eyre and works by Wollstonecraft and Woolf.

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          • Keating, Peter. The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction. London: Routledge, 1971.

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            With this the foundational study of the literary representation of the working classes, Keating ranges from the “condition of England” fiction of the 1840s to the end of the period. But his particular strengths and interests lie in analyzing works of the 1880s and 1890s, chiefly those of George Gissing, Arthur Morrison, and Walter Besant. This remains well-informed and a mine of detail on near forgotten works of the period.

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            • Poovey, Mary. Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830–1864. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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              A wide-ranging study that encompasses the category of class as part of its investigation of the formation of ideas of the “social” in the mid-19th century. Particularly useful in its consideration of class formation in Chadwick’s 1842 Sanitary Report. A strong example of analysis of the discourses of class in both literary and nonliterary texts.

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              • Robbins, Bruce. Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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                A startling and original study of exceptional range. Robbins returns to consider the continuities of class by examining narratives of upward mobility from Rousseau to present-day memoirs via much 19th-century literature, including Great Expectations. It argues for the centrality of a notion of “common good” to such narratives and the value of institutions in an engaged and engaging work.

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                • Vicinus, Martha. The Industrial Muse: A Study of Nineteenth-Century British Working-Class Literature. London: Croom Helm, 1974.

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                  This wide-ranging and informative study remains revelatory in its examination of a variety of forms of working-class literature in the period. From street ballads to Chartist poetry, and from dialect literature and the culture of the music hall, Vicinus here sets down the roots of several key areas for scholarship on working-class writing for the next four decades.

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                  Bibliographies and Anthologies

                  The anthology has been an invaluable means of advancing teaching and research in working-class poetry and autobiography. Most recently, Boos 2008 is a considered and widely available collection of Victorian working-class women’s poetry that complements and develops the emphasis on male poets in Maidment 1987 and the focus on Chartism in Scheckner 1989. For anthologies and bibliographies of working-class autobiographies, see Working-Class Autobiography and Memoir. Another important function of the anthology has been to enable scholars to bring together canonical texts and historical contexts in the seminar room and beyond. Particular emphasis on the documents comprising the “condition of England” crisis can be found in Flint 1987. Hollis 1973 provides extracts from a wider sweep of history and is useful in foregrounding different modes of radical protest. Keating 1976 gives insights into a slightly later period of social exploration and is particularly useful for those examining the representation of the working class in London. Morris and Rodger 1993 is an anthology of reprinted critical works on the city most useful for teaching across that field. Mutch 2005 also focuses on the latter part of the period and in particular the flourishing state of different modes of writing and thinking about class and society in socialist periodicals.

                  • Boos, Florence S., ed. Working-Class Women Poets in Victorian Britain: An Anthology. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2008.

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                    The fruits of this leading scholar’s extensive research, the collection profiles the work of seventeen working-class women writers, divided into sections comprising rural poets, factory poets, lyricists, and feminists.

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                    • Flint, Kate, ed. The Victorian Novelist: Social Problems and Social Change. London: Croom Helm, 1987.

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                      Despite its title, this is an anthology of extracts from contemporary journalism, social investigation, and Royal Commission reports from the 1840s and 1850s. With the work specifically geared toward students and scholars of canonical social-problem fiction, Flint introduces three sections, each focused on a different location of poverty and social distress: first, the industrial North and Midlands; then London; finally, the rural poor.

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                      • Hollis, Patricia, ed. Class and Conflict in Nineteenth-Century England, 1815–1850. London: Routledge, 1973.

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                        A compendium of short extracts from contemporary reports and newspapers on this crucial period of class formation. Includes sections on different analyses of the economic and social context of the period, including old radical attacks on corruption and the emergence of a critique of capitalism; cooperation; Chartism; the emergence of a language of class; unions and political unionism.

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                        • Keating, Peter. Into Unknown England, 1866–1913: Selections from the Social Explorers. Glasgow: Fontana, 1976.

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                          Although wider in scope than the fin de siècle, this remains a very useful resource for accessing the work of social explorers such as Charles Booth and William Booth of the Salvation Army and working with texts that fed fears of social degeneration during the period.

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                          • Maidment, Brian. The Poorhouse Fugitives: Self-Taught Poets and Poetry in Victorian England. Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1987.

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                            An important collection that made the analysis of working-class and Chartist poetry—and its incorporation into studies of broader trends in the canons of Victorian poetry—a possibility. Maidment provides excellent contextual introductions to his selections and to the poets themselves.

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                            • Morris, R. J., and Richard Rodger, eds. The Victorian City: A Reader in British Urban History, 1820–1914. London: Longman, 1993.

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                              A really useful collection that reprints the leading works on urban studies addressing the place of the various classes in the Victorian city. A strong introduction defines the field.

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                              • Mutch, Deborah. English Socialist Periodicals, 1880–1900: A Reference Source. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                An invaluable resource for locating fiction, poetry, manifestos, published in the wide array of socialist periodicals that sprang up during this period. Mutch provides a detailed and authoritative introduction that forms a good starting place for those interested in pursuing research in this field.

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                                • Scheckner, Peter. An Anthology of Chartist Poetry: Poetry of the British Working Class, 1830s–1850s. London: Associated University Presses, 1989.

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                                  An introduction to and selection of working-class poetry selected primarily from politically motivated works designed to advance the Chartist movement.

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                                  Archives

                                  The availability of digital reproductions of works of 19th-century social exploration, Royal Commission reports, and a variety of newspapers and periodicals has made working on text and primary context an almost automatic part of scholarly research for literary scholars working on class. The resources listed here are those that might be less well known and are usefully edited and introduced. The subscription resource London Low Life is a stimulating collection of material on poverty and street culture in Victorian London. The Archive of Working-Class Writing, by contrast, is a freely available resource constructed by leading academics, which will, after complete development, it is hoped, contain much of the material in the Burnett archives of working-class autobiography. The Marxist Internet Archive upholds and documents the writing and achievements of 19th-century British socialists; provides introductions to different analyses of class; and contains transcriptions of Engels’s own fascinating reflections on life in Britain.

                                  The Making of Class

                                  The whole current of studies of class in Britain was altered in the early 1960s by a renewed emphasis on class as something made by historical actors out of the material conditions of their existence, rather than as a predetermined hierarchy. The extensive theoretical debates in the New Left Review that underpinned this rethinking of class are beyond the scope of this bibliography: the effects of this shift in thinking are most visible in the seminal work of Thompson 1963. Though this rethinking of class energized 19th-century social history for the next three decades, it also opened the door to important developments in interdisciplinary approaches to literary studies of the period. Thompson and others stressed the importance of experience in the process of class formation, which in turn led to an interest in subjectivity, representations, language, and rhetoric. The works in this section are chiefly social histories of class formation, but are ones that should be essential starting points for literary scholars thinking about narrative, class, and representation.

                                  Working Class

                                  Though historiographical debate still continues on the subject, it is fairly widely agreed that the era of the Industrial Revolution led to the emergence of a distinct working class and that this was, in turn, accompanied by the increasing social and geographical separation between employers and employees, bourgeoisie and proletariat, as the early 19th century progressed into the Victorian period. Thompson 1963 provides the title for this section and no examination of the working class in the Victorian period can do without referring to this study, despite its chief focus falling on the Romantic era. Thompson’s assertion that class is something which happens as a result of the identification of common experience within a group as against another group continues to be influential. Developments of and detractors from his work have been plentiful. Clark 1995 is a response to critiques of the elision of gender—and of women’s experience to a great extent—in Thompson 1963 and provides a good overview of the works of British feminist social history that first identified this. Stedman Jones 1983 advanced the argument that language is an important dimension of experience in the formation of class identity in a study that ranges further into the Victorian period than either Thompson or Clark. Stedman Jones’s attention to the diverse languages through which solidarity and identity are expressed was, on the one hand, greatly indebted to Thompson’s interest in the category of class as experience; but it was highly controversial at the time for the implication that class itself might be an effect of language, rather than economic base structure. Joyce 1991 created controversy by emphasizing language and arguing that in the Victorian period class was a much less perceptible marker of collective identity than the idea of “the people,” hence turning away firmly from Marxist-inflected understandings of historical process. Fox 1994 is a rather different study—in this case, of late-19th- and early-20th-century working-class fiction—but one that is exemplary in its dialogue between these historical narratives of class and sensitive textual analyses of class identity formation.

                                  • Clark, Anna. The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

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                                    In the light of feminist critiques of the work of E. P. Thompson and others, Clark revisits the period 1780–1850 to address the part played by gender in the emergence of the working class. Clark’s richly detailed study shows how competition and tensions between men and women shaped the rhetoric of class.

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                                    • Fox, Pamela. Class Fictions: Shame and Resistance in the British Working-Class Novel, 1890–1945. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.

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                                      Although Fox’s study starts at the very end of the period under consideration here, her argument that shame is a crucial part of the formation of working-class subjectivity is persuasive and intelligent, and worth reflecting back on for studies of earlier literature and classed subjectivity. Fox studies working-class fiction produced during the zenith of working-class consciousness in the early 20th century.

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                                      • Joyce, Patrick. Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1848–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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                                        An explicit attempt to revise Marxist historical accounts of proletarianization and working-class formation in the light of poststructuralism. Joyce attempts to map other social categories and languages of common experience, including, most significantly here, that of populism and appeals to “the people” in the 19th century. Joyce’s attention to language and representation gives a wide field of engagement to literary scholars.

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                                        • Stedman Jones, Gareth. Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History, 1832–1982. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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                                          A significant work of revisionist history that, in the wake of the Conservative electoral successes of the 1980s, challenged any comfortable Marxist notion of working-class formation.

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                                          • Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. London: Gollancz, 1963.

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                                            Essential reading for any consideration of the 19th-century working class—and indeed what class means more generally. Thompson argues that class is not a set hierarchy but something continually remade within the parameters of the economic structure of society. Thompson’s model of narrating “history from below”—case studies of often forgotten figures—also makes it a winning read for those from literary backgrounds.

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                                            Middle Class

                                            In one sense, the making of the middle class is everywhere in 19th-century literature and culture, from the narrative form of the Bildungsroman to the decoration of the drawing room. But the works listed here remind scholars that this seemingly stable center of “Victorian” identity is a subject-in-process, just as much made out of historical conditions, dependent on mutual recognition, and liable to fracture and dissent, as the working class. Perkin 1989 is an important historical study that argues for the increasing displacement of class hierarchies in the course of the period thanks to the emergence of a new ideal of professionalism that enabled the rise to power of a select group of the educated middle classes. Crossick 1977 is a useful reminder that the term “middle class” is an exceptionally broad one, and alerts readers to the shifting and liminal status of the clerkly lower middle class in the course of the period. Davidoff and Hall 2002, first published in 1987, placed the increasing separation of public and private, masculine and feminine, spheres at the center of a narrative about the emergence of a distinct industrial bourgeoisie, and shaped a decade of debate in women’s history as a result. While the former study focuses on the midlands and domestic life in this process of class formation, Morris 1993 examines the role of voluntary associations in Leeds. Prewitt Brown 2008 approaches the subject of the domestic interior and the significance of bourgeois spatial arrangements from a literary and philosophical perspective that makes a productive companion to social histories of the same subject. Gay 1984–1998, like Brown, addresses the question of interiority and subjectivity, though in this case its Freudian histories focus more on eroticism and the life of the senses in the formation of a class psyche.

                                            • Crossick, Geoffrey, ed. The Lower Middle Class in Britain, 1870–1914. London: Croom Helm, 1977.

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                                              An authoritative collection of essays by a leading group of social historians. Chapters include considerations of religion and class, jingoism and patriotism, and the figure of the clerk.

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                                              • Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall, eds. Family Fortunes. Rev. ed. London: Routledge, 2002.

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                                                An influential study that sustained the analysis that an increasing separation of spheres of activity for men and women was fundamental to the emergence of a distinct middle-class identity in the early part of the century. Fascinating, rich material on changing family life in the industrializing midlands.

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                                                • Gay, Peter. The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud. Vols. 1–2. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984–1988.

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                                                  The most significant volumes of Gay’s extraordinary five-volume psycho-history of the Anglo-European middle-class attempts to track the intimate interior life of the bourgeoisie. Gay is invested in overturning any notion of the Victorian bourgeoisie as prudish or sexually repressed, especially in Volume 1, The Education of the Senses and Volume 2, The Tender Passion.

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                                                  • Morris, R. J. Class, Sect, and Party: The Making of the Middle Class in Leeds, 1820–1850. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1990.

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                                                    A detailed social history of the formation of the middle class in Leeds underpinned by extensive quantitative research. Morris places the role of voluntary organizations at the heart of his analysis of middle-class identity and pays little attention to more private forms of life.

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                                                    • Perkin, Harold. The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880. London: Routledge, 1989.

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                                                      A significant study that argues for the increasing displacement of class antagonism and the dissemination of an ideal of professional identity throughout the 20th century. Contains important case studies of the reshaping of the middle class by the hierarchies of professionalism from the later 19th century. Argues that at the zenith of class society in the 1880s a new, fourth class of professional emerged to challenge and break down the existing hierarchies.

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                                                      • Prewitt Brown, Julia. The Bourgeois Interior: How the Middle-Class Imagines Itself in Literature and Film. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008.

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                                                        A wide-ranging study of the middle-class domestic interior in Europe and North America that uses canonical 19th- and 20th-century literary examples to make an argument about things, interiors, and bourgeois subjectivity. Thought-provoking in its engagement with the works of Walter Benjamin and an instructive read alongside and against works on similar subjects by social historians with a more empirical bent.

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                                                        Aristocracy

                                                        There is surprisingly little written about the making (or unmaking) of the British aristocracy in the Victorian period, largely, one imagines, because the whole understanding of class formation arises out of a Marxist analysis in which the bourgeoisie and proletariat are the significant agents of change in the era of capitalism. A notable exception to this rule is the historian David Cannadine. Cannadine 1990 is the authoritative history of the shifting fortunes of the aristocracy from the 19th century onward; Cannadine 1980 is a more specialized study of aristocratic urban influence. Contributors to Hobsbawm and Ranger 1992 track the rise of invented tradition as a necessary supplement to an era of capitalist modernity in which the national symbolic role of the aristocracy was fading.

                                                        • Cannadine, David. Lords and Landlords: The Aristocracy and the Towns, 1774–1967. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1980.

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                                                          An eye-opening case study of the role of two aristocratic families, Calthorpe and Devonshire, in the development of two 19th-century towns: Birmingham and Eastbourne. Includes a useful historiographic chapter evaluating the impact of the aristocracy in the shaping of growing cities in the 19th century.

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                                                          • Cannadine, David. The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

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                                                            A pleasure to read and a mine of information, this study, despite its title, does much to demonstrate the continued reach and influence of the aristocracy into the later 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in Parliament and the upper echelons of the civil service.

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                                                            • Hobsbawn, Eric, and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition. Canto ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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                                                              An outstanding collection of essays by leading social historians, including one by Cannadine on the British monarchy from the Victorian period. Argues that much of the seemingly historic “national” traditions of the United Kingdom stemmed from the Victorian period as a conscious effort to promote patriotic unity in the demise of a visible aristocracy.

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                                                              Literacy

                                                              During the 19th century there was a dramatic rise in literacy rates that, in turn, led to the further development of publications for working-class readers and the emergence of working-class writers. Altick 1957 paved the way for much future research by documenting the emergence of a mass reading public and drawing attention to the sorts of material read at the time. Hoggart 1957 tracked the emergence of mass popular culture from the end of the Victorian era into the mid-20th century as a result of this increase in literacy. Hoggart’s anxieties about mass culture’s ability to distract the lower classes from political consciousness and literary value were developed and reflected in James 1963, which underscores the sensationalism of much 19th-century popular fiction. Brantlinger 1998 develops an analysis of the anxiety of mass literacy in a range of 19th-century canonical fictions. Vincent 1989 figures the literate working classes more as agents in their own development, an approach echoed by Murphy 1994 and Haywood 2004, which examine the emergence of relatively autonomous senses of literary value and of radical politics, respectively, via studies of the popular periodical press. Ashton and Roberts 1999 is an interesting collection of case studies of working-class writers that usefully complements the survey of Vincent and others.

                                                              • Altick, Richard. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.

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                                                                A ground-breaking study in its time, Altick’s meticulous research documents what the Victorian reading public actually read and did much to reorient scholars interested in 19th-century culture in its broadest sense beyond canonical fiction and poetry.

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                                                                • Ashton, Owen, and Stephen Roberts. The Victorian Working-Class Writer. London: Mansell, 1999.

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                                                                  Despite its broad title, this is a careful consideration of the lives, survival strategies, and journeys into a writerly career of a select group of male artisan writers drawing on records of the Royal Literary Fund. Also includes examples from the works of each of the writers under discussion.

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                                                                  • Brantlinger, Patrick. The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth Century British Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

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                                                                    Perceptive and persuasive study of how fears of mass literacy figure in a range of canonical literary works from the Romantic and Victorian periods. Brantlinger’s focus is not strictly on class, rather the wider pattern of increasing literacy that also encompassed women readers; however, the study is all the richer for that and does not overlook the particularities of working-class education.

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                                                                    • Haywood, Ian. The Revolution in Popular Literature: Print, Politics, and the People 1790–1860. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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                                                                      Haywood argues for the emergence of a radical counter-public sphere of plebeian literature in the period he examines. Unlike James 1963, Haywood perceives popular print culture as a means to articulate radical politics. Includes considerations of Chartist literature, the unstamped press of the 1830s, and the phenomenal work of G. W. M. Reynolds.

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                                                                      • Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life, with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments. London: Chatto and Windus, 1957.

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                                                                        Although Hoggart’s study reflects on working-class culture and literature in the 20th century, it provides an indispensable reflection on the debates on working-class literacy, literary value, and the emergence of a market-driven mass culture that appeared initially in the Victorian period. Rich in autobiographical reflection on the position of the working-class “scholarship boy.”

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                                                                        • James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man, 1830–1850: A Study of the Literature Produced for the Working Classes in Early Victorian Urban England. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

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                                                                          James’s study analyzes near forgotten mid-century popular fiction and tracks modes of access and reading for the working classes. Includes chapters on tales of terror and the historical novel, and a fine examination of the influence and dissemination of Dickens’s works.

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                                                                          • Murphy, Paul Thomas. Toward a Working-Class Canon: Literary Criticism in British Working-Class Periodicals, 1816–1858. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994.

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                                                                            An important study of 19th-century working-class periodicals that argues the working class shaped its own literacy through interventions in these publications.

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                                                                            • Vincent, David. Literacy and Popular Culture: England 1750–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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                                                                              An authoritative socio-linguistic history of rates of literacy over the modern period, tracking sites of reading and writing, including schooling, work, and the natural world as well as imaginative literature.

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                                                                              Culture

                                                                              If the 19th-century middle and upper classes feared the rise to power of the working-class masses thanks to the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, then the palliative was to be the dissemination of culture to all. Matthew Arnold is the best known proponent of culture as an agent of sweetness and light—the antidote to anarchy—and further reading on Arnold is a necessary accompaniment to detailed studies in this field. The works here give broader overviews of the place of “culture” in class formation and politics. Williams 1958 traces a history of culture over the 19th century and into the mid-20th century. Collini 1991 returns to several of the figures in the debates on 19th-century culture instrumental to Williams’s argument in his study of detailed facets of the integration of cultural ideas and political thought in the period. Several recent studies have foregrounded particular spaces of cultural encounter in the 19th-century city. Hill 2005 examines the emergence of the public museum in the context of debates on class and culture; Gunn 2000 provides a wider-ranging study of the spaces of culture and its role in class consolidation in northern industrial cities. The title of Rose 2001 indicates its central revisionist claim: that the working classes also had an intellectual life and culture.

                                                                              • Collini, Stefan. Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain, 1850–1930. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

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                                                                                Illuminating intellectual history that examines the sense of the social and emergent ideals of culture in the works and lives of leading male “public moralists” or sage figures during the period in question.

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                                                                                • Gunn, Simon. The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority and the English Industrial City, 1840–1914. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                  A detailed social history of the engagement of the newly wealthy industrial middle classes in the sphere of civic culture. Examines the role of music and the spatial politics of the city in an unusually theoretically reflective study.

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                                                                                  • Hill, Kate. Culture and Class in English Public Museums, 1850–1914. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                                                    An informative and valuable study of the emergence of the public museum in the 19th century and its role as mediator of culture from the perspective of art history and museology.

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                                                                                    • Rose, Jonathan. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                      An ambitious and important study that draws on the work of David Vincent and other scholars of working-class autobiography to trace a history of working-class reading and intellectual culture.

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                                                                                      • Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society, 1780–1950. London: Chatto and Windus, 1958.

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                                                                                        This remains a study of extraordinary range and insight. In many ways a response to Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1867–1868), Williams’s work led the way to what now seems the norm—studies of 19th-century literary culture in relation to developments in society and politics.

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                                                                                        Working-Class Autobiography and Memoir

                                                                                        Working-class autobiography has long served as an area where social historians and literary critics meet and share some common ground in pursuit of class, subjectivity, experience, and the narrative shaping of selfhood. Burnett, et al. 1984–1989 is the essential starting point for those wishing to identify a body of texts for detailed research. Burnett 1994 is an instructive anthology of extracts giving a rapid overview of the field when accompanied by the historical, thematic conspectus by Vincent 1981. Stanley 1984 and Steedman 1988 edit and introduce narratives that complicate any straightforward reading of such works as evidence of selfhood: Stanley highlights the sophisticated erotic game playing enacted in the narrative Hannah Cullwick wrote for her “master” Arthur Munby, while Steedman is attentive to the modes of writing and inherited forms that shaped the narrative possibilities of her “radical soldier.” John Pearman. Joyce 1994 takes the lives and life writings of one working and one middle-class man as grist for its mill of rejecting class as a category of self-identification in the Victorian period. Ying 2007 brings together autobiographies with canonical Victorian fiction in an intelligent rethinking of class and selfhood in narrative.

                                                                                        • Burnett, John, ed. Useful Toil: Autobiographies of Working People from the 1820s to the 1920s. London: Routledge, 1994.

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                                                                                          An anthology of extracts from autobiographies of men and women, divided into three categories: laboring classes, servants, and skilled workers. Burnett provides a useful introduction discussing the relations between autobiography and history. Originally published in 1974 (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin).

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                                                                                          • Burnett, John, David Vincent, and David Mayall, eds. The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography. 3 vols. New York: New York University Press, 1984–1989.

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                                                                                            The essential reference resource for any scholar interested in mapping out further research drawing on this material, much of which stems from the Burnett archives of working-class autobiographies now held at Brunel University. Volume 1 covers the period from 1790 to 1900; Volume 2 covers the early 20th century; and Volume 3 supplements both with further material.

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                                                                                            • Joyce, Patrick. Democratic Subjects: The Self and the Social in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                              Case studies of working-class Edwin Waugh and the middle-class John Bright that attempt to map the language in which these subjects wrote and thought about class and identity. Also includes a section on narrative and collective identity in the 19th century.

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                                                                                              • Stanley, Liz, ed. The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick: Victorian Maidservant. London: Virago, 1984.

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                                                                                                Stanley provides a well-researched and trenchant introduction to an extraordinary text documenting the contested relations between a female servant and her “master,” the dilettante poet Arthur Munby. Cullwick’s memoir and diary written at Munby’s behest is unforgettable and has stimulated much subsequent scholarship on the relations between class, race, and gender.

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                                                                                                • Steedman, Carolyn, ed. The Radical Soldier’s Tale: John Pearman, 1819–1908. London: Routledge, 1988.

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                                                                                                  The narrative of this foot soldier of the empire who later became a policeman, while also remaining a radical republican, provides rich scope for Steedman’s interest in the conflicted working-class subject and self-narration. Steedman’s introduction teases out the tensions of the narrative and demonstrates through close reading how his self is constructed in dialogue with standard English.

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                                                                                                  • Vincent, David. Bread, Knowledge, and Freedom: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working Class Autobiography. London: Europa, 1981.

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                                                                                                    A comprehensive study that discusses a wide range of autobiographies under a series of thematic headings, including the family and “useful knowledge.”

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                                                                                                    • Ying, Lee. Masculinity and the English Working Class: Studies in Victorian Autobiography and Fiction. London: Routledge, 2007.

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                                                                                                      Intelligent work that constructs a convincing dialogue between working-class autobiography and contemporary Victorian fiction, drawing on work by both social historians and literary critics. Includes considerations of the Pickwick Papers, Mary Barton, and Alton Locke alongside nonfiction memoirs.

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                                                                                                      Artisan Poetry

                                                                                                      Artisan, Chartist, radical, and/or working-class poetry and poetics have been one of the liveliest fields of study for literary scholars interested in class since the late 1990s. Boos 2001 is the most effective way to grasp the field as a whole, while Keegan 2008 provides a prehistory of laboring-class poetry in the era of industrialization. Janowitz 1998 has been crucial in integrating the significance of artisan poetry into studies of canonical poetry; conversely, Klaus 1998 is emblematic of the politics of experience and recovery that first brought much of this work to light. Sanders 2009 has moved the whole field into a new direction with its sophisticated and theoretically informed mapping of Chartist aesthetics and poetics.

                                                                                                      • Boos, Florence, ed. Special Issue: The Poetics of the Working Classes. Victorian Poetry 39 (2001).

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                                                                                                        A valuable special edition with contributions from leading scholars in this field, including Stephanie Kuduk, Mike Sanders, and Solveig Robinson. Essays are divided into sections that include three essays on Chartist poetry; three on women and working-class poetics; and three final contributions collected under the heading “Language, Criminality, and Gender.”

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                                                                                                        • Janowitz, Anne F. Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                          Although more concerned with the aftermath of canonical Romantic poetry than artisan poetry per se, Janowitz’s lucid study identifies a dialectic between the oral and the literary—and hence the four and five beat structure of verse—over the 19th century and is alert to the part played by Chartist and other artisanal poets, in addition to James Thomson and William Morris.

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                                                                                                          • Keegan, Bridget. British Labouring-Class Nature Poetry, 1730–1837. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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                                                                                                            Although the focus of this study falls on the Romantic period, Keegan usefully maps the imbrications of laboring-class poetry in this movement beyond the better known territory of John Clare. An insightful conclusion tracks her case forward into the Victorian era.

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                                                                                                            • Klaus, Gustav. Factory Girl: Ellen Johnston and Working-Class Poetry in Victorian Scotland. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.

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                                                                                                              An impassioned case for recovering the intentions and seriousness of the Scottish “factory girl” poet Johnston. Klaus has long been engaged with class and 19th-century British literature as a means to political consciousness, and here he includes examples of Johnston’s works as a means to be mindful of the continuing global exploitation of working women.

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                                                                                                              • Sanders, Mike. The Poetry of Chartism: Aesthetics, Politics, History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                Intelligent and challenging study that brings together an authoritative grasp of social history with acute textual analyses. Sanders argues for the emergence of a distinct Chartist aesthetic and makes a compelling case for revaluing the aesthetic as well as the political significance of these works.

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                                                                                                                Industrial Fiction and the “Condition of England” Debate

                                                                                                                Industrial fiction; factory novels; social problem novels; “condition of England” fiction: however it is identified, this significant subgenre of fiction that emerged in the 1830s and was fairly well over by the 1860s has long attracted literary scholars interested in the representation and significance of class. Listed here are some notable works covering the genre as a whole. Individual author entries on relevant works by Gaskell, Dickens, Disraeli, Bronte, Tonna, Martineau, Frances Trollope, Eliot, and Kingsley will complement this brief overview. Gallagher 1985 remains the most influential study of the field. It rethought the relation between text and context in the light of new historicist thinking, though Guy 1996 is a more straightforward starting point for those wanting to grasp the critical history of the field and Brantlinger 1977 is still useful in its tracking of the question of reform in canonical fiction. Ingham 1996 grounds some insightful textual readings with a good sense of critical debates on the making of the working class. Zlotnick 1998, like Ingham, reads for the intersections of class and gender, but Zlotnick makes a stronger argument about the more positive responses to industrialism on the part of women writers. Lesjak 2006 deserves a wide readership for its attempt to reconfigure how we think about labor and the novel in the context of industrial fiction and its aftermath; as in Gallagher 1985 and Bodenheimer 1988, the narrative form of the novel itself is seen to be part of political content. Klaus and Knight 2000 gives a good overview of the greater emphasis on social history on the part of British scholars of this material.

                                                                                                                • Bodenheimer, Rosemarie. The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                  A thoughtful study that argues the politics of social fiction is to be found in narrative form and plot resolution rather than in contextually reflective content. A lucid analysis moves between well-known works by Gaskell, Eliot, and Dickens and lesser-known contributions by Jewsbury, Frances Trollope, and Elizabeth Stone.

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                                                                                                                  • Brantlinger, Patrick. The Spirit of Reform: British Literature and Politics, 1832–1867. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                    Brantlinger’s study is less concerned with the dialogue with contemporary politics than more Marxist-influenced, or later new historicist studies. But he usefully tracks a shift in literature of reform, from fiction advocating direct intervention in the earlier part of the period he studies to more generalized notions of “progress” later in the century.

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                                                                                                                    • Gallagher, Catherine. The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form, 1832–1867. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                      A challenging and highly influential study of the genre that argues the industrial novel carried through a central preoccupation of 19th-century realist fiction: the transformation of facts into values. Gallagher discusses works by Gaskell and Dickens, and includes a particularly significant discussion of Eliot’s Felix Holt.

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                                                                                                                      • Guy, Josephine. The Victorian Social-Problem Novel: The Market, the Individual, and Communal Life. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1996.

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                                                                                                                        A short work that attempts to set out the critical context and history of this subgenre. Guy argues that works by Gaskell, Dickens, and others map a conflict between the individual life and economic marketplace through a series of clear textual readings.

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                                                                                                                        • Ingham, Patricia. Languages of Gender and Class: Transformation in the Victorian Novel. London: Routledge, 1996.

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                                                                                                                          A good starting place for considering the interlocking of class and gender in canonical 19th-century novels that starts out with industrial fiction. The introduction grounds those new to the field in historiographical debates on the emergence of class, and the chapters include detailed studies of Shirley, North and South, Hard Times, Felix Holt, and Jude the Obscure. The focus on class identity is less evident in the earlier chapters.

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                                                                                                                          • Klaus, Gustav, and Stephen Knight, eds. British Industrial Fictions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                            A useful overview of recent scholarship in this field, covering the period from the early 19th century to the late 20th century. Significant essays by Mike Sanders on representations of industrial accidents, and Ian Haywood on female radicalism.

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                                                                                                                            • Lesjak, Caroline. Working Fictions: A Genealogy of the Victorian Novel. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                              An important study that reconfigures the conventional focus on labor and class in industrial fiction to argue that questions of labor, pleasure, and representation were at the heart of the development of the Victorian novel until the end of the century. Includes chapters on Felix Holt and Mary Barton as well as work on William Morris and Oscar Wilde.

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                                                                                                                              • Zlotnick, Susan. Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                Examines a range of canonical and less well-known examples of industrial fiction to argue that middle-class women writers were less hostile to the modernity of industry than their male peers. Includes an instructive final section on working-class writers and the particularly fraught negotiation of domesticity and labor by working women.

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                                                                                                                                The Servant

                                                                                                                                Studies of the servant have been particularly important in rethinking the making and experience of the working class. Steedman 2007 points out that the exclusion of domestic workers from accounts of the making of the working class in the industrial era means that the part of women in that process of making is all too often overlooked. Steedman 2009 follows up the extraordinary case history of Steedman 2007 with a broad examination of the role of servants in the making of modernity. The tensions and interplay between conflicting class and gender roles are at the fore in several histories of service: Peterson 1970 remains a good introduction to that famous archetype of the 19th-century novel, the governess, while Hughes 1993 is a meticulous and readable social history of the same subject. The servant in fiction is still best served by Robbins 1986: the theoretically astute reading of the 19th-century novels from its margins is unmatched. Taylor 2003 takes a wide view of the philosophical implications of mastery and service in the 19th century, while Fernandez 2010 and Nash 2007 investigate the significance of literacy and the idea of paternalism in a range of 19th-century fictions through the figure of the servant. Fernandez 2010 studies servant narrators in fiction that connects such figures to concerns over the literacy of servants and the working class more generally. McCuskey 2000 is an interesting consideration of interclass relations and surveillance in mid-Victorian fiction.

                                                                                                                                • Fernandez, Jean. Victorian Servants, Class, and the Politics of Literacy. London: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                  A useful conspectus that includes analyses of Wuthering Heights, Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, The Moonstone, and Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde as well as servant memoirs, including those of Hannah Cullwick. Oddly uncertain as to whether it discusses bourgeois representation or working-class historical actors in places and doesn’t engage with Steedman’s influential work on the subject.

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                                                                                                                                  • Hughes, Kathryn. The Victorian Governess. London: Hambledon, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                    A well-informed study, drawing on a rich range of memoirs and primary research that provides an excellent counterweight to fictional representations of this figure during the period. Maps out the social uncertainty and unstable class identity of the governess.

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                                                                                                                                    • McCuskey, Brian. “The Kitchen Police: Servant Surveillance and Middle-Class Transgression.” Victorian Literature and Culture 28 (2000): 359–375.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S1060150300282077Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      An entertaining and convincing reading of mid-Victorian fiction and the role of the servant as observer and detective.

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                                                                                                                                      • Nash, Julie. Servants and Paternalism in the Works of Maria Edgeworth and Elizabeth Gaskell. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                        Strong close readings of employer-servant relations in well-known works by the two novelists in question underpin this study. Nash includes some broader considerations of paternalism and the servant relationship in the period, but her chief focus is critical considerations of the individual works of fiction.

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                                                                                                                                        • Peterson, M. Jeanne. “The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society.” Victorian Studies 14 (1970): 7–26.

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                                                                                                                                          An incisive early article that remains useful in mapping out the complex interplay of gender and class that marked the figure of the Victorian governess.

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                                                                                                                                          • Robbins, Bruce. The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                            A seminal study that reorients our understanding of canonical 19th-century fiction by reading for the presence of the servant. Wide-ranging, compelling work that highlights the limited repertoire of servant roles in literature—such as impertinence—in order to bring to the open critical questions of bourgeois subjectivity.

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                                                                                                                                            • Steedman, Carolyn. Master and Servant: Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                              An exceptional work of social and cultural history that uses a case study of the relationship between a clergyman and his pregnant maid to reexamine the narrative of the making of the working class generated by E. P. Thompson. Also includes a chapter on the servant narrator of Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean.

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                                                                                                                                              • Steedman, Carolyn. Labours Lost: Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                A rich and absorbing examination of the subjectivity and emergent social relations of servants in the early 19th century. Steedman’s methodology—reading archival traces as narrative, fusing psychoanalytically informed reflections with standard narratives of social history—is as important for literary critics as her material here.

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                                                                                                                                                • Taylor, Jonathan. Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                  Explores the 19th-century master-servant relations via Hegelian master-slave dialectic. Wide-ranging and thoughtful work, animated by philosophical concerns rather than the historical constitution of class, but a useful counterpart to much else here for this reason.

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                                                                                                                                                  The Gentleman

                                                                                                                                                  Studies of the figure of the gentleman have been enriched by the growth of studies in the history and representation of masculinity since the late 1990s. Tosh 1999 is a significant study of male domesticity that should give pause for thought to any literary critic still inclined to think in terms of a feminine bourgeois private sphere. Danahay 2005 provides a complex picture of middle-class masculinity in art and literature, while Robson 2001 is an exceptional study of the gentleman’s investment in ideals of girlhood. Gilmour 1981 is still the best starting point for approaching the representation of the gentleman in literature, alert to historical change over the period, though Young 1999 provides analysis of the lower-middle-class gent and the working woman, and Waters 1997 gives a detailed examination of the representation of self-control. Hancock 2005 is an ambitious, uneven study of the sublime and middle-class masculinity.

                                                                                                                                                  • Danahay, Martin. Gender at Work in Victorian Culture: Literature, Art, and Masculinity. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                    A useful survey of the ideological constructions of gender in a variety of visual and literary media. Danahay’s study makes clear that despite the ideal type of the gentleman, all sorts of cross-class, and cross-gender identifications flourished outside it around the crux of work and leisure.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Gilmour, Robin. The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel. London: Allen and Unwin, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                      A thorough and well-informed consideration of gentlemanly identity in the 19th century, tracing its evolution from 18th-century notions of politeness. Includes chapters on Thackeray, Dickens, and Trollope.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Hancock, Stephen. The Romantic Sublime and Middle-Class Subjectivity in the Victorian Novel. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                        An ambitious, if rather uneven, study that attempts to argue for the emergence of middle-class (masculine) subjectivity in response to a feminine, post-Romantic sublime. Includes chapters on Eliot, Thackeray, Dickens, and Hardy. Engages with a wide range of critical theory and an interesting counterbalance to historicist work.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Robson, Catherine. Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                          Although its primary focus is on the investment of middle-class men in the figure of the girl child, Robson’s astute study does much to illuminate the education and subjectivity of the 19th-century gentleman. Includes chapters on Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Tosh, John. A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                            A rich and useful social history of male domesticity and middle-class formation during the period in question. Lavish illustrations give shape to a culture that celebrated the home as a place for the gentleman.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Waters, Karen Volland. The Perfect Gentleman: Masculine Control in Victorian Men’s Fiction, 1870–1901. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                              Returns to the subject of Gilmour 1981 and extends it by examining the self-controlled gentleman in the fiction of the later 19th century. Includes studies of the figure of the gentleman in works by Stevenson, Gissing, Kipling, and Wilkie Collins.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Young, Arlene. Culture, Class, and Gender in the Victorian Novel: Gentleman, Gents, and Working Women. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                Young examines the evolving literary representation of the gentleman from the 18th century to the emergence of the later-19th-century lower-middle-class gent in the course of discussing works by Mullock Craik, Dickens, Wells, and Gissing. Also includes chapters on middle-class working women. Clear and wide-ranging work.

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                                                                                                                                                                The Lady

                                                                                                                                                                The rich field of research on 19th-century femininity has a listing in its own right, but some works particularly alert to the dimension of class are given here. Vicinus 1972 is indicative of the interest in 19th-century ideals of domestic femininity on the part of second-wave feminist scholars and evidence of how such scholars fostered interdisciplinary approaches to the subject. Myers 2001 returns to a subject first addressed by contributors to Vicinus’s collection: the structuring of middle-class female emigration to the colonies. Poovey 1984 is the best representative of analyses of the discourses and ideologies of the “lady” in relation to women’s writing that emerged in that decade; Langland 1995 adopts a similar though rather less nuanced approach to the discourses of gender with a particular focus on middle-class domesticity. Corbett 1992 attempts to explore the subjectivity of the middle-class woman through autobiography, while Phegley 2004 conversely examines the construction of the ladylike reader through the periodical press. Zakreski 2006 is a welcome interdisciplinary study of the tensions between middle-class female identity and paid employment in the artistic professions. Carlisle 2001 is a wide-ranging examination of novels of the 1860s that opens a new dimension for thinking about class: odor.

                                                                                                                                                                • Carlisle, Janice. “The Smell of Class: British Novels of the 1860s.” Victorian Literature and Culture 29 (2001): 1–19.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/S1060150301291013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  A perceptive reading of the odors of class distinction in fiction of this decade that, although it reaches well beyond the category of the lady, helps to understand the fine integration of codes of class, gender, and the sexualized body.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Corbett, Mary Jean. Representing Femininity: Middle-Class Subjectivity in Victorian and Edwardian Women’s Autobiographies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Although this is a very selective and slightly uneven study, Corbett provides a serviceable introduction to ideologies of the lady and self-sacrificial femininity as they surface in middle-class women’s autobiographies from the early period, through to the suffragettes.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Langland, Elizabeth. Nobody’s Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                      A study of Victorian ideals of domesticity in fiction written during the period. Intelligent readings of Dickens, Oliphant, Eliot, Gissing, and others, though Langland’s Foucauldian emphasis on discursive formation and middle-class control now seems a little clunky and dated.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Myers, Janet. “Performing the Voyage Out: Victorian Female Emigration and the Class Dynamic of Displacement.” Victorian Literature and Culture 29 (2001): 129–146.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S1060150301291086Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        A valuable examination of the work of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society and its role in structuring class-differentiated patterns of emigration to the colonies to combat the specter of middle-class “surplus womanhood.”

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Phegley, Jennifer. Educating the Proper Woman Reader: Victorian Family Literary Magazines and the Cultural Health of the Nation. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Indicative of the flourishing field of research in periodical studies since 2000. Phegley argues that leading family magazines such as Cornhill and Belgravia countered fears of the unladylike effects of women reading popular fiction by constructing discerning and critical feminine readers.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Poovey, Mary. The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Highly influential study that examines the ideals of feminine propriety established in conduct literature and elsewhere from the late 18th century onward. Poovey perceives the ideology of the “proper lady” as a means to combat fears of female sexual profligacy and overconsumption, and analyzes how this ideology works through and against the style of her chosen authors.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Vicinus, Martha J., ed. Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Although dated now, this collection of essays played a formative role in shaping further directions for studies in women’s history and 19th-century literature during the second wave of feminism and is useful for that reason. The emphasis of contributors falls on the restrictive ideology of the lady and the private sphere—particularly in the essay by Kate Millet on Ruskin—though studies of working-class women are also included.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Zakreski, Patricia. Representing Female Artistic Labour, 1848–1890: Refining Work for the Middle-Class Woman. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Intelligent and well-informed analysis of the tensions between the ideal of the lady and the necessity of paid work for some in the middle classes. Zakreski argues that an increasing range of occupations relating to high culture were remarked as “refining” professions for women, including authorship, seamstressing, and performance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Artisans

                                                                                                                                                                                Although there is little in the way of studies of artisans in 19th-century fiction, it is clear from historical works that the emergence of clearly defined segments within the working class was a central feature of the second half of the 19th century. The liminal territory of the skilled working class was certainly also of interest to late-19th-century writers such as Gissing and Wells. Historical debate was intense during the 1970s about the existence of the so-called aristocracy of labor: a highly skilled segment of the working class who were, in a Leninist analysis, deemed to have forestalled the revolutionary potential of the proletariat by identifying with middle-class ideology rather than leading their fellow workers. Crossick 1978 and Gray 1976 assert the autonomy of artisan culture. Rich in detail, these case studies of southeast London and Edinburgh, respectively, will enrich literary scholar’s perceptions of the complexity of working-class culture and identity. Roderick 2001 is a more concentrated study of the influence of Smiles’s Self-Help and ideologies of self-improvement among this group.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Crossick, Geoffrey. An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society: Kentish London, 1840–1880. London: Croom Helm, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A classic work of social history that confirms the emergence of a distinct identity of upper-working-class artisans—an aristocracy of labor—during the period in question. Crossick’s meticulous study of lives in Kentish (southeast) London traces the experiences that shaped this common identity from within and confirms the significance of “respectability” as a core part of it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Gray, Robert. The Labour Aristocracy in Victorian Edinburgh. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Like Crossick 1978, Gray’s detailed study of the skilled artisans of 19th-century Edinburgh should be an invitation to literary scholars to become more discerning in the use of the term “working class” and generalizations about working-class culture in the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Roderick, Anne Baltz. “The Importance of Being an Earnest Improver: Class, Caste, and Self-Help in Mid-Victorian England.” Victorian Literature and Culture 29 (2001): 39–50.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S1060150301291037Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      A useful examination of the language of self-improvement and Smiles’s Self-Help among artisans and mechanics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Working-Class Women

                                                                                                                                                                                      Further works on working-class women as writers of poetry and autobiography, as subjects of industrial fiction, as servants, and as makers of class may be found under Industrial Fiction and the “Condition of England” Debate, The Servant, and The Making of Class. Rogers 2000 brings together work from the former two fields with recent developments in thinking about the making of the working class in a significant study of working-class women and radicalism. Swindells 1985 is a very readable study focused on the recovery of Victorian working-class women’s experience and writing. Johnson 2001 engages with the field of studies of industrial fiction to examine the absence of the woman factory worker in the majority of these texts. Huneault 2002, conversely, examines the visualization of working women in art and photography during the late Victorian period.

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Huneault, Kristina. Difficult Subjects: Working Women and Visual Culture, Britain, 1880–1914. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A well-informed and comprehensive study of the representation of women workers by artists and photographers in this crucial period for the resettling of relations of class and gender. Includes sections on servants, street sellers, sweated labor, and the visual culture of women’s unionism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Johnson, Patricia. Hidden Hands: Working-Class Women and Victorian Social-Problem Fiction. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Suggests that the figure of the working-class factory girl became un-narratable in the aftermath of the publication of the Royal Commission on Children’s Labour in 1842. Moves from Tonna’s Helen Fleetwood (1839–1841) to later working women’s autobiographies and works by Kipling and Gissing. Includes a convincing reading of Bronte’s Shirley.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Rogers, Helen. Women and the People: Authority, Authorship, and the Radical Tradition in Nineteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            An important interdisciplinary study of the place of women in shaping the discourse of radicalism in the course of the 19th century. From Peterloo through the campaigns to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, Rogers mines out the inclusive rhetoric of the “people” and populism as shaped by radical women writers and activists.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Swindells, Julia. Victorian Writing and Working Women: The Other Side of Silence. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Although a bit dated now, this is a very readable study that situates women authors as working women and also includes what was, for its time, groundbreaking work on working-class women’s writing in its final section.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Working-Class Men

                                                                                                                                                                                              Despite extensive studies of working-class formation, there is surprisingly little scholarship on working-class masculinity per se in literature of the Victorian period, though much relevant to this heading may also be found under Working-Class Autobiography and Memoir, Literacy, and The City. Beaven 2005 gives a useful grounding in the rich fields of research that could await such studies, in terms of popular culture, jingoism, and much else. Barringer 2005 is driven by an interest in labor, more so than working-class masculinity, reflecting broader currents in masculinity studies. But its attention to the depiction of the laboring body and the scene of industry is valuable to literary scholars. Surridge 2000 provides a good sense of what might be achieved if more attention were given to the construction of masculinity in industrial fiction and elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Barringer, Timothy J. Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Steeped in the works of Ruskin, Barringer’s exceptional and highly readable study reviews 19th-century art through the anxieties around the labor of the working man. Includes an illuminating analysis of the work of the artisan and artist James Sharples, and useful detail on the representation of the industrial city and its processes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Beaven, Brad. Leisure, Citizenship, and Working-Class Men in Britain, 1850–1945. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A readable history of working-class masculinity and popular culture. Beaven provides a useful introduction to key anxieties around working-class masculinity in the Victorian period, including “rational recreation,” leisure and mass culture, and the needs of the Empire.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Surridige, Lisa. “Working-Class Masculinities in Mary Barton.” Victorian Literature and Culture 28 (2000): 331–343.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/S1060150300282053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    An interesting attempt to rebalance the usual emphasis on femininity in Gaskell’s novel. Thoughtful and illuminating.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Upper Classes

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The majority of studies of the aristocracy and landed gentry 19th-century fiction focus on the vogue for so-called silver fork novels from the 1820s to the 1840s. These novels were initially written by members of the upper classes and set in high society, though by the 1840s the subgenre was more frequently lambasted by Thackeray and others as ludicrously misinformed accounts penned by vulgar middle-class women aspirants to society. Adburgham 1983 is the best introduction to the field and its fascination with the Regency period and the Byronic ideal; Devine Jump 2005 makes six of the novels in question available with excellent scholarly introductions. O’Cinneide 2008 draws women silver fork novelists into a broader discussion of the place of aristocratic women in the formation of national literary life. Platt 2001 provides a rather different perspective, mapping the idea of aristocracy as a strain of resistance to mass culture and democracy at the turn of the century.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Adburgham, Alison. Silver Fork Society: Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814–1840. London: Constable, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A good introduction to this flourishing Victorian subgenre of novels of aristocratic and fashionable high life, often set in the Regency period, and mercilessly satirized by Thackeray.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Devine Jump, Harriet, ed. Silver Fork Novels, 1826–1841. 6 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        A scholarly reissue of six representative novels of the genre, with instructive introductions to each work. Includes titles by Edward Bulwer Lytton; Rosina Bulwer Lytton; Letitia Landon; and Marguerite, Countess Blessington.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • O’Cinnéide, Muireann. Aristocratic Women and the Literary Nation, 1832–1867. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A timely study analyzing the role of aristocratic women writers in shaping debates on national identity in the mid-19th century. Includes chapters on the authors of silver fork fiction, aristocratic memoir, and the salon politics of female influence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Platt, Len. Aristocracies of Fiction: The Idea of Aristocracy in Late-Nineteenth-Century and Early-Twentieth-Century Literary Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Platt tracks the reemergence of the aristocratic ideal amid the group of European early modernist thinkers and writers inspired by Nietzsche. Includes considerations of Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and H. G. Wells.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            The City

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Studies of the 19th-century city have long proved the most fruitful way of thinking about interaction between the classes and representations of class difference in 19th-century culture and literature. Stedman Jones 1971 demonstrates how fruitful such an approach could be with its detailed social history of “outcast” London in the later 19th century. Dyos and Wolff 1973 remains a landmark collection of essays in the field, though it maps far more than class in its diverse approach to the city. The particular fascination with class in London for many literary scholars is partly explained by the presence of London in so many of Dickens’s works, but also the existence of a vast body of rich material ripe for textual analysis, such as Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor. Humpherys 1977 remains the best introduction to Mayhew’s life and works. Koven 2004, Maltz 2006, and Livesey 2004 all explore the varied middle- and upper-class responses to the perception of divisions between East and West, poor and rich, in later-19th-century London. Koven focuses on the erotics of the cross-class encounter; Maltz on the dissemination of aesthetic ideals; Livesey on social casework and the narration of working-class character. Joyce 2003 and Whelan 2010 both examine the urban fiction of later-19th-century London in the light of class. Joyce is the stronger study, alert to social history and literary text. Whelan provides a serviceable analysis of the ambiguities of the suburb in late-19th-century literature and culture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Dyos, H. J., and Michael Wolff, eds. The Victorian City: Images and Realities. 2 vols. London: Routledge, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A remarkable collection of essays that defined the field of Victorian studies on its publication. Still essential reading on features of urban life and street culture that have received less attention in more recent decades, though not all works are focused on class per se.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Humpherys, Anne. Travels into the Poor Man’s Country: The Work of Henry Mayhew. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A detailed study of the life and works of the journalist Henry Mayhew, whose series of articles for the Morning Chronicle, republished as London Labour and the London Poor, still forms an essential resource for reading about urban workers in Victorian London.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Joyce, Simon. Capital Offenses: Geographies of Class and Crime in Victorian London. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Brings together archival research on social investigation and crime in the city with readings of popular fiction of the period to map a “literary geography” of late Victorian London. Particularly thoughtful readings of Wilde’s writings as a rejection of the quasi-naturalist fiction that emerged in response to the “discovery” of the East End slums.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Koven, Seth. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Koven starts his study in the 1860s and provides a trenchant—if not always thoroughly convincing—argument about sexual identity and cross-class encounters in late-19th-century London. Brilliant work in the later chapters on Toynbee Hall and masculinity in the slums does much to illuminate wider discussions of sexual identity and cross-class relations in the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Livesey, Ruth. “Reading for Character: Women Social Reformers and Narratives of the Urban Poor in Late Victorian and Edwardian London.” Journal of Victorian Culture 9 (2004): 45–57.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Uses the transcripts of interviews with applicants for aid to the London Charity Organisation Society to discuss the significance of the idea of “character” or its absence among the poor on the part of middle-class women voluntary workers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Maltz, Diana. British Aestheticism and the Urban Working Classes, 1870–1900: Beauty for the People. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Maltz directs attention to what she, following Ian Fletcher, terms “missionary aestheticism” and the social engagement of the movement in the late 19th century: bringing beauty to slum dwellers. Maltz is attentive to the tensions between upper-middle-class aesthetes and their working-class subjects in a variety of contexts in later-19th-century London, including Octavia Hill’s housing schemes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Stedman Jones, Gareth. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between the Classes in Victorian Society. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An outstanding work of social history that did much to draw attention to the specific shifts in representations of the city at the fin de siècle—though Jones’s interests, at this time, were more those of class formation than cultural or linguistic representation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Whelan, Lara Baker. Class, Culture, and Suburban Anxieties in the Victorian Era. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Although a bit thin and traveling through some familiar materials, Whelan provides an effective introduction to the tensions around the shifting grounds of suburbia, middle-class culture, and the incursion of the working classes in the later 19th century.

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