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Feeling middle class: sensory perception in Victorian literature and culture

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Title
Feeling middle class: sensory perception in Victorian literature and culture
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Title
Sensory perception in Victorian literature and culture
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Ward
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Megan
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1975-
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Megan Ward
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author
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Kate
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Kate Flint
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chair
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Siegel
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Jonah
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Jonah Siegel
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Williams
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Carolyn
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Advisory Committee
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Carolyn Williams
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Carlisle
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Janice
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Advisory Committee
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Janice Carlisle
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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Graduate School - New Brunswick
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theses
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2008
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2008-05
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English
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electronic
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vi, 189 pages
Abstract
This dissertation proposes that perception in the Victorian era was not just a source of information but a way of training the self. Representations of the senses defined bourgeois identity through a process that this project labels guided sensing: instilling particular sensations in the body that register as middle-class experience. This work extends both broad considerations of bodily class formation and specific Victorianist interest in the senses by delineating a form of self-fashioning that was considered sustainable at mid-century but receding by the fin-de-si├Ęcle. Reading major literary works alongside scientific texts, domestic manuals, and legal treatises, this dissertation argues that sensory detail established a self-consciously modern practice of the body. The second half of this project shows how later novels of the period interrogated guided sensing, questioning its efficacy in inculcating and sustaining middle-class values.
The four chapters each elucidate one of four concepts fundamental to middle-class identity: taste, professionalism, fidelity, and cultivation. The first two chapters read popular journalism and sensation fiction to establish how guided sensing distinguishes middle-class women from men. The discourse of taste in the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine encourages women to ignore sensory information to appear tasteful. At the same time, Charles Dickens' Bleak House and Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone prompt men to emphasize their sharp senses in pursuit of professionalism. Later Victorian novels, however, begin to question guided sensing. The third and fourth chapters show how Anthony Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds and Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders diminish the narrative drive of individual mobility. No longer as desirably modern as in the 1850s, guided sensing subsided without the drive of individualism. These novels defer the narrative drive of individual mobility, reconstituting the individual within the social realm's conflicting models of sensory subjectivity. Percipient bourgeois identity, this project attests, was a social experience that felt singular.
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 176-188).
Subject (ID = SUBJ1); (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Literatures in English
Subject (ID = SUBJ2); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
English literature--19th century--History and criticism
Subject (ID = SUBJ3); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Literature and society--Great Britain--History--19th century
Subject (ID = SUBJ4); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Working class in literature
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Graduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore19991600001
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http://hdl.rutgers.edu/1782.2/rucore10001600001.ETD.17060
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ETD_881
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T3QC03VV
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Open
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Megan Ward
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Rutgers University. Graduate School - New Brunswick
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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