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The Ideas in ThingsFugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel$
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Elaine Freedgood

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226261553

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226261546.001.0001

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Coziness and Its Vicissitudes: Checked Curtains and Global Cotton Markets in Mary Barton

Coziness and Its Vicissitudes: Checked Curtains and Global Cotton Markets in Mary Barton

(p.55) 2 Coziness and Its Vicissitudes: Checked Curtains and Global Cotton Markets in Mary Barton
The Ideas in Things

Elaine Freedgood

University of Chicago Press

Fustian and calico hold a host of meanings in their names, in their histories, and, quite literally, in their rough and smooth textures. Part of the genealogy of coziness that we can trace in checked curtains is that they mark a continuity with the preindustrial past of East Lancashire. The calico curtains in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton suggest that its laboring-class residents are domestic. This chapter is not so much a “reading” of Mary Barton as it is a meditation on the way that the history of calico unravels the ideological work of domesticity as Gaskell tries to deploy it. The blue and white curtains that promise protection at key narrative moments have been purchased at the expense of the laborers who make them in England, and the laborers who no longer make them in South Asia. Hence, the presence of checked curtains suggests the exceptionally high price of domesticity for the poor. In addition, famine haunts Mary Barton; characters hunger, starve, and die at an alarming pace.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, cotton, coziness, domesticity, calico, fustian, famine, laborers

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