Economic Woman

Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 320
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    Economic Woman
    Book Description:

    Economic Womanis the first book to address directly the links between classical political economy and gender in the novel.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9414-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Demand; or, the Cephalopod (pp. 3-24)

    In an 1853 essay entitled ʹThe Circulation of Matter,ʹ chemist James F.W. Johnston explains to a popular readership the unceasing processes by which the raw materials of the planet are combined into new forms, broken down, and combined again:

    The same material – the same carbon, for example – circulates over and over again … It forms part of a vegetable to-day – it may be built into the body of a man to-morrow; and, a week hence, it may have passed through another plant into another animal. What is mine this week is yours the next. There is, in...

  5. 1 Popular Demand: Surplus and Stagnation in Nineteenth-Century Political Economy (pp. 25-80)

    The rhetoric of classical economics, and its elaboration in the popular journals, pamphlets, and tracts of the early and mid-nineteenth century, was the site of a fierce contest between seemingly optimistic and pessimistic prophets of the future of capitalism. As Boyd Hilton states in his study of evangelical thought in the first half of the century, the period was characterized by ʹa persistent oscillation between optimism and pessimism, a constant uncertainty as to whether happiness or misery best testified to Godʹs efficient governance of the mortal worldʹ (Age35). While Hiltonʹs analysis specifically locates this oscillation in amateur religious economic...

  6. 2 ʹFine Clothes anʹ Wasteʹ: Utopian Economy and the Problem of Femininity in Adam Bede (pp. 81-111)

    Marriage or drowning – it does not matter which. As her contemporary critics noted, George Eliot is perhaps rather too fond of killing off her heroines for the tastes of genteel mid-Victorian readers. While the motive for the deaths of Hetty Sorrel and Maggie Tulliver remains an unsettling enigma (especially for modern feminist criticism),¹ the symbolic importance of these deaths, and the claims about novelistic form and readerly expectation that they engender, demand that Eliotʹs first two novels be read against each other. More important, only when we attend to these novelsʹ engagement with contemporaneous economic debates and their pervasive...

  7. 3 Superfluity and Suction: The Problem with Saving in The Mill on the Floss (pp. 112-146)

    Why must Maggie Tulliver die? For both contemporary and modern readers of George Eliotʹs second novel, the abrupt and violent death of her beloved heroine has remained an unsettling enigma.¹ The original readers of Eliotʹs second novel were no less outraged at Maggieʹs untimely death than were the professional literary critics of the 1980s who engaged in a protracted debate over the problem of the novelʹs implausible ending.² And yet the real paradox is not the ending itself, but the disbelief and consequent explanatory energy it has inspired. Seen from within the theoretical framework of these very same critics, the...

  8. 4 ʹAll Was Over at Lastʹ: Epistemological and Domestic Economies in The Mayor of Casterbridge (pp. 147-180)

    What does it mean for the heroine of a Victorian novel to supplant her father in the patriarchal role of ʹbuying and sellingʹ? For her word to be law, to have ʹher own way in everythingʹ? For if this trajectory inThe Mayor of Casterbridgeis a marked reversal of the usual psychoanalytic narrative of the Œdipus complex, in which the boy is promised the ultimate ascendance to his fatherʹs position of phallic authority and privilege, it is also a rather startling reversal of the usual narrative of the Victorian novel, in which the girlʹs ultimate reward comes from the...

  9. 5 Self-Sacrifice, Skillentons, and Motherʹs Milk: The Internalization of Demand in Tess (pp. 181-232)

    The novels I have examined thus far have shared, along with their economic predilections, a rather cold-blooded willingness to sacrifice their protagonists. The term ʹsacrificeʹ is, at first blush, particularly appropriate in the case ofTess of the d’Urbervilles. As many of Hardyʹs contemporary and modern readers have noted, Tess is consistently figured as a sacrificial victim throughout the novel, from her parentsʹ callous surrender of her to Alec dʹUrberville to her final capture on the altar at Stonehenge. The necessity of this abandonment is variously figured, in both the novel and its criticism, as the inexorability of Fate, the...

  10. Notes (pp. 233-272)
  11. Works Cited (pp. 273-288)
  12. Index (pp. 289-309)


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