Degree Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

William Patrick Day

Committee Member(s)

Sandra Zagarell
Natasha Tessone

Keywords

George Gissing, New Grub Street, Realism, 19th century, Consumerism, Novel, Consumption, Narrative, Victorian novel, Commodity, Reproduction

Abstract

Journalists often write about the death of various print and media forms—deaths that have yet to occur, but which we continually anticipate in deference to a tacit law which discards the past as a “useless encumbrance” of outmoded styles of consumption. But is that encumbrance necessarily useless? In this paper, I argue that George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891), which narrates the deaths of two realist novelists and has been called an “epitaph for Victorian fiction,” lives out its own virtual death to good purpose. I discuss how Gissing uses the realist novel’s transitional or partially exhausted state to conserve social possibilities excluded by consumer society and the newer, less novelistic commodities that circulate within it. I examine theories of consumerism, exploitation, and Realism in the 19th century novel to articulate how a surplus of meaning can so reside in a consumable object.

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