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The imagination of class: Masculinity and the Victorian urban poor

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The imagination of class: Masculinity and the Victorian urban poor


classe, pauvreté, masculinité, masculinity, hommes, men, Victorian, nineteenth century, dix-neuvième siècle, United Kingdom, Royaume-Uni, London, Londres, literature, littérature, histoire urbaine, représentations, Bivona Daniel, Hinkle Roger B.


Extract from the Introduction:
The poor were always with the English. Poverty had been of broad social concern since the Elizabethan period at least: the topic of ongoing debate, periodic legislation, sporadic philanthropy. But the London poor of the nineteenth century - particularly from the 1840s on - seemed to present a different phenomenon. The spectacle of poverty and associated degradation in Central and East London, and later in South London, gave rise to a new set of imaginative and cultural representations. It developed from and in turn created new relationships between an ascending urban middle class and the worst victims of the metropolis. Poverty became, as Gertrude Himmelfarb notes, "a cultural rather than an economic condition" (Idea of Poverty 366). The character of the London poor broke into the public consciousness as if it were a discovery, which was "at once painful and alarming" in the words of one observer, and the "sense of novelty did not seem to disappear till the 1890's" (Victorian City 1:18). New terms, such as "slum," entered the vocabulary, and from the Victorian period on, almost as one conceived of the big city, one conceived at the same time of a festering, teeming, sullen nether world within it. The state of London's poor came to exercise a strong imagistic influence, shaping the discourses of journalism, social work, government activity, and high culture.
The late Roger B. Henkle was Professor of English and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.
Daniel Bivona is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University.


Daniel Bivona Roger B. Hinkle


The Ohio State University Press