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Coda: Victorian Thing Culture and the Way We Read Now

Coda: Victorian Thing Culture and the Way We Read Now

(p.139) Coda: Victorian Thing Culture and the Way We Read Now
The Ideas in Things
Elaine Freedgood
University of Chicago Press

This coda argues that the objects in Victorian novels were not fully in the grip of the kind of fetishism Karl Marx and Marxists have ascribed to industrial culture. A host of ideas resided in Victorian things: abstraction, alienation, and spectacularization had to compete for space with other kinds of object relations—ones that we have perhaps yet to appreciate. Commodity culture happened slowly: it was preceded by, and was for a long time survived by what this book calls Victorian “thing culture”: a more extravagant form of object relations than ours, one in which systems of value were not quarantined from one another and ideas of interest and meaning were perhaps far less restricted than they are for us. Thing culture, stimulated by production, display, and reproduction, inspires the representational practices that contribute to the formation of commodity culture. This coda emphasizes how slowly this may have happened and the extent to which a thing culture remained vibrantly extant well into the Victorian period, perhaps only becoming truly vitiated toward the end of the century.

Keywords:   Victorian novels, fetishism, abstraction, alienation, spectacularization, commodity culture, thing culture, objects

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