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- DescriptionWhat if the political work of Victorian social-problem vels was precisely to make the reader feel as if reading them in and of itself mattered? Surveying vels by Charles Dickens, Frances Trollope, Benjamin Disraeli, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Henry James, Carolyn Betensky tracks the promotion of bourgeois feeling as a response to the suffering of the poor and working classes. Victorian social-problem vels, she argues, volunteered the experience of their own reading as a viable response to conflicts that seemed daunting or irreconcilable. Encoded at multiple levels within the vels themselves, reading became something to do about the pain of others. Beyond representations of conscious or unconscious wishes to control, conquer, or discipline the industrial poor, social-problem vels offered their middle-class readers the opportunity to experience themselves in the position of both benefactor and beneficiary. Betensky argues that these narratives were t only about middle-class fear of or sympathy for the working classes. They gave voice, just as importantly, to a middle-class desire for and even envy of the experience of the dominated classes. In their representations of poor and working-class characters, social-problem vels offered middle-class subjects an expanded range of emotional experience that included a claim to sympathy on their own behalf.
- Author BiographyCarolyn Betensky is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island.
- Author(s)Carolyn Betensky
- PublisherUniversity of Virginia Press
- Date of Publication15/12/2010
- SubjectLiterary Criticism
- Series TitleVictorian Literature and Culture Series
- Place of PublicationCharlottesville
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintUniversity of Virginia Press
- Weight499 g
- Width152 mm
- Height229 mm
- Spine23 mm
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