The first book to study the rise of Victorian autobiography as a marketplace phenomenon rather than a vehicle for constructing identity, and to relate life-writing to broader cultural impulses to imagine identity as a textual thing. It will particularly appeal to scholars of nineteenth-century literature, book history and material culture.
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Sean Grass is Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is the author of The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner (2003), Charles Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend': A Publishing History (2014), and several essays on Victorian literature and culture. He received two awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of the current work.
Introduction: life upon the exchange: commodifying the Victorian subject; 1. 'A vile symptom': autobiography and the commodification of identity; 2. 'Portable property': commodity and identity in Great Expectations; 3. Lady Audley's portrait: textuality, gender, and power; 4. Amnesia, madness, and financial fraud: ontologies of loss in Silas Marner and Hard Cash; 5. 'What money can make of life': willing subjects and commodity culture in Our Mutual Friend; 6. The Moonstone, sacred identity, and the material self; Conclusion: money made of life: the Tichborne claimant.
'This thoroughly researched and carefully documented work will be of interest to students of Victorian literature, history, publishing, and economics.' J. D. Vann, Choice 'The Commodification of Identity offers us new ways of conceiving the relationship between the dissolution of identity and the explosion of commercial life-writing in the Victorian era ... It is part of a distinguished series of monographs on Victorian literature, the Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture.' Robert L. Patten, Dickens Quarterly 'Grass's readings of mid-to-late-century fiction are precise, multi-dimensional and persuasive, and the unusual collocation of texts works well.' Trev Broughton, Journal of Victorian Culture '... offering both a concrete representation of the 'literary market' and an expansive sense of what might be included in the category of the economic, Grass's account is full of fascinating detail and revelatory analyses. In tracing how identity came to be conceived as textual, transactional, and exchangeable ... Grass offers new frameworks for understanding Victorian life writing, fiction, and the period's innovative economic and bureaucratic cultures ...The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative ... challenge[s] us to keep imagining terms that capture the flexibility of Victorian economic life and its narrative situations.' Aeron Hunt, Nineteenth-Century Literature
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