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The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative

The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative
Autobiography, Sensation, and the Literary Marketplace


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Author: Sean Grass, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
  • Publication planned for: October 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108484459

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • In the first half of the nineteenth century autobiography became, for the first time, an explicitly commercial genre. Drawing together quantitative data on the Victorian book markets, insights from the business ledgers of Victorian publishers and close readings of mid-century novels, Sean Grass demonstrates the close links between these genres and broader Victorian textual and material cultures. This book offers fresh perspectives on major works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade, while also featuring archival research that reveals the volume, diversity, and marketability of Victorian autobiographical texts for the first time. Grass presents life-writing not as a stand-alone genre, but as an integral part of a broader movement of literary, cultural, legal and economic practices through which the Victorians transformed identity into a textual object of capitalist exchange.

    • Extensive archival research reveals the diversity and complexity of Victorian autobiographical texts, facilitating new perspectives of the genre
    • Situates autobiographical writing in the context of book history, and innovatively analyses autobiographical texts with nineteenth-century novels
    • Offers new readings of key writers of the period, including Dickens, Braddon, Eliot, Collins and Reade
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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: October 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108484459
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • contains: 6 b/w illus.
    • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: life upon the exchange: commodifying the Victorian subject
    1. 'A vile symptom': autobiography and the commodification of identity
    2. 'Portable property': commodity and identity in Great Expectations
    3. Lady Audley's portrait: textuality, gender, and power
    4. Amnesia, madness, and financial fraud: ontologies of loss in Silas Marner and Hard Cash
    5. 'What money can make of life': willing subjects and commodity culture in Our Mutual Friend
    6. The Moonstone, sacred identity, and the material self
    Conclusion: money made of life: the Tichborne claimant.

  • Author

    Sean Grass, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
    Sean Grass is Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is the author of The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner (2003), Charles Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend': A Publishing History (2014), and several essays on Victorian literature and culture. He received two awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of the current work.

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