“Redeeming the Mrs. Jellybys of Victorian Fiction as agents of liberation may be a tall order; but Siegel certainly succeeds wonderfully here in demanding, and offering, reconsideration of our own too-simple condescension toward Victorian condescension.”
“Charity and Condescension gives literary critics that which we always hope for in a new book: an entirely new way of seeing texts that we all know and teach.”
Suzanne Daly, University of Massachusetts Amherst
“Smart and original readings.”
Charity and Condescension explores how condescension, a traditional English virtue, went sour in the nineteenth century, and considers the ways in which the failure of condescension influenced Victorian efforts to reform philanthropy and to construct new narrative models of social conciliation. In the literary work of authors like Dickens, Eliot, and Tennyson, and in the writing of reformers like Octavia Hill and Samuel Barnett, condescension—once a sign of the power and value of charity—became an emblem of charity’s limitations.
Charity and Condescension argues that, despite its reputation for idealistic self-assurance, Victorian charity frequently doubted its own operations and was driven by creative self-critique. Through sophisticated and original close readings of important Victorian texts, Siegel shows how these important ideas developed even as England struggled to deal with its growing underclass and an expanding notion of the state’s responsibility to its poor.
Daniel Siegel is an associate professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of several articles about Victorian literature and culture. More info →
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From the 1860s through the early twentieth century, Great Britain saw the rise of the department store and the institutionalization of a gendered sphere of consumption.
In A Necessary Luxury Julie E. Fromer analyzes tea histories, advertisements, and nine Victorian novels, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, and Portrait of a Lady. Fromer demonstrates how tea functions as an arbiter of taste and middle-class respectability.
If nineteenth-century Britain witnessed the rise of medical professionalism, it also witnessed rampant quackery. It is tempting to categorize historical practices as either orthodox or quack, but what did these terms really signify in medical and public circles at the time? How did they develop and evolve? What do they tell us about actual medical practices?Doctoring
Gruel and truffles, wine and gin, opium and cocaine. Making a Man: Gentlemanly Appetites in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel addresses the role of food, drink, and drugs in the conspicuously consuming nineteenth century in order to explore the question of what makes a man of a certain class in novels of the period.
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