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Spinning Cotton: Domestic and Industrial Novels

Suzanne Daly
Victorian Studies
Vol. 50, No. 2, Papers and Responses from the Fifth Annual Conference of the North American Victorian Studies Association, Held Jointly with the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada (Winter, 2008), pp. 272-278
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40060326
Page Count: 7
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Spinning Cotton: Domestic and Industrial Novels
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Abstract

This essay examines the ways in which nineteenth-century domestic and industrial novels highlight and suppress different aspects of Britain's involvement in the Indian cotton trade. England's complex and evolving relationship with India is often worked out in Victorian novels through the association of English people and Indian things, but the terms of this relationship shift depending upon novelistic genre. Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters and Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil reveal how gendered dress codes in domestic novels position Indian textiles as markers of virtue and good taste, whereas industrial novels frequently evince a concern with cotton as a commodity and the cotton mill as a space in need of benevolent reform. Both genres, however, occlude as much as they reveal about the cotton trade's global reach.

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