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Victorian Literature and the Victorian State

Character and Governance in a Liberal Society

Lauren M. E. Goodlad

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Studies of Victorian governance have been profoundly influenced by Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault's groundbreaking genealogy of modern power. Yet, according to Lauren Goodlad, Foucault's analysis is better suited to the history of the Continent than to nineteenth-century Britain, with its decentralized, voluntarist institutional culture and passionate disdain for state interference. Focusing on a wide range of Victorian writing—from literary figures such as Charles Dickens, George Gissing, Harriet Martineau, J. S. Mill, Anthony Trollope, and H. G. Wells to prominent social reformers...

Studies of Victorian governance have been profoundly influenced by Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault's groundbreaking genealogy of modern power. Yet, according to Lauren Goodlad, Foucault's analysis is better suited to the history of the Continent than to nineteenth-century Britain, with its decentralized, voluntarist institutional culture and passionate disdain for state interference. Focusing on a wide range of Victorian writing—from literary figures such as Charles Dickens, George Gissing, Harriet Martineau, J. S. Mill, Anthony Trollope, and H. G. Wells to prominent social reformers such as Edwin Chadwick, Thomas Chalmers, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, and Beatrice Webb—Goodlad shows that Foucault's later essays on liberalism and "governmentality" provide better critical tools for understanding the nineteenth-century British state.

Victorian Literature and the Victorian State delves into contemporary debates over sanitary, education, and civil service reform, the Poor Laws, and the century-long attempt to substitute organized charity for state services. Goodlad's readings elucidate the distinctive quandary of Victorian Britain and, indeed, any modern society conceived in liberal terms: the elusive quest for a "pastoral" agency that is rational, all-embracing, and effective but also anti-bureaucratic, personalized, and liberatory. In this study, impressively grounded in literary criticism, social history, and political theory, Goodlad offers a timely post-Foucauldian account of Victorian governance that speaks to the resurgent neoliberalism of our own day.

Reviews

Reviews

Goodlad shifts the paradigm for studying Victorian society from the... early Foucault... A welcome intervention into new historicist critical practices.

One of the most important contributions to the study of the Victorian novel to appear thus far in the twenty-first century.

Lauren Goodlad seems poised to take her place among the most incisive and respected critics of Victorian literature and culture... Goodlad's study is erudite in its detailed accounts of period literatures and contexts and rigorously fair-minded in its approach to the past.

Meticulous and illuminating book.

With this welcome study, Goodlad extends and revises post-Foucauldian theories of state power and governance in 19th-century England... It will undoubtedly spark much productive debate among scholars of the Victorian period.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Beyond the Panopticon: The Critical Challenge of a Liberal Society
2. Making the Working Man Like Me: Charity, the Novel, and the New Poor Law
3. Is There a Pastor in the House? Sanitary

Preface
1. Beyond the Panopticon: The Critical Challenge of a Liberal Society
2. Making the Working Man Like Me: Charity, the Novel, and the New Poor Law
3. Is There a Pastor in the House? Sanitary Reform and Governing Agency in Dickens's Midcentury Fiction
4. An Officer and a Gentleman: Civil Service Reform and the Early Career of Anthony Trollope
5. A Riddle without an Answer: Character and Education in Our Mutual Friend
6. Dueling Pastors, Dueling Worldviews
Epilogue: Social Security
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Author Bio