The Victorian City, Demography, and the Politics of Creaturely Life
This chapter highlights the early Victorian era and focuses on the city as a key site for the administration of mass life. The chapter takes up a formal problem revealed by realist fiction and social science. With different aims, the two overlap to produce a heterogeneous genre that might be called mass writing. Such writing serves as a heuristic for understanding why population, central as it is, becomes incoherent as a category — why it transmutes not only into other formations, including race, class, nation, and species but also, and above all, into a degraded remainder of itself. Contrasting the cliché that fiction personalizes while social science aggregates, the chapter finds industrial fiction contributing to a mode of mass writing that proliferated alongside quantitative population analysis. Ultimately, the chapter examines the relation between population and class. It discusses Friedrich Engels's study of working-class environments, Henry Mayhew's taxonomy of casual labor in London, and Elizabeth Gaskell's classic industrial novel Mary Barton.
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