Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

by Seth Koven
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691128006

ISBN-13: 9780691128009

Pub. Date: 07/24/2006

Publisher: Princeton University Press

In the 1880s, fashionable Londoners left their elegant homes and clubs in Mayfair and Belgravia and crowded into omnibuses bound for midnight tours of the slums of East London. A new word burst into popular usage to describe these descents into the precincts of poverty to see how the poor lived: slumming. In this captivating book, Seth Koven paints a vivid

Overview

In the 1880s, fashionable Londoners left their elegant homes and clubs in Mayfair and Belgravia and crowded into omnibuses bound for midnight tours of the slums of East London. A new word burst into popular usage to describe these descents into the precincts of poverty to see how the poor lived: slumming. In this captivating book, Seth Koven paints a vivid portrait of the practitioners of slumming and their world: who they were, why they went, what they claimed to have found, how it changed them, and how slumming, in turn, powerfully shaped both Victorian and twentieth-century understandings of poverty and social welfare, gender relations, and sexuality.

The slums of late-Victorian London became synonymous with all that was wrong with industrial capitalist society. But for philanthropic men and women eager to free themselves from the starched conventions of bourgeois respectability and domesticity, slums were also places of personal liberation and experimentation. Slumming allowed them to act on their irresistible "attraction of repulsion" for the poor and permitted them, with society's approval, to get dirty and express their own "dirty" desires for intimacy with slum dwellers and, sometimes, with one another.

Slumming elucidates the histories of a wide range of preoccupations about poverty and urban life, altruism and sexuality that remain central in Anglo-American culture, including the ethics of undercover investigative reporting, the connections between cross-class sympathy and same-sex desire, and the intermingling of the wish to rescue the poor with the impulse to eroticize and sexually exploit them.

By revealing the extent to which politics and erotics, social and sexual categories overflowed their boundaries and transformed one another, Koven recaptures the ethical dilemmas that men and women confronted—and continue to confront—in trying to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691128009
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/24/2006
Pages:
424
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xiii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xv
INTRODUCTION Slumming: Eros and Altruism in Victorian London 1
Slumming Defined 6
Who Went Slumming? Sources and Social Categories 10
Eros and Altruism: James Hinton and the Hintonians 14
PART ONE: INCOGNITOS, FICTIONS, AND CROSS-CLASS MASQUERADES 23
CHAPTER ONE Workhouse Nights: Homelessness, Homosexuality, and Cross-Class Masquerades 25
James Greenwood and London in 1866 31
Reading "A Night in a Workhouse" 36
Responses to "A Night in a Workhouse" 46
Homelessness as Homosexuality: Sexology, Social Policy, and the 1898 Vagrancy Act 70
Postscript: Legacies of "A Night" on Representations of the Homeless Poor 74
CHAPTER TWO Dr. Barnardo's Artistic Fictions: Photography, Sexuality, and the Ragged Child 88
Facts, Fictions, and Epistemologies of Welfare 94
"The Very Wicked Woman" and "Sodomany" in Dr. Barnardo's Boys' Home 103
Representing the Ragged Child 112
Joseph Merrick and the Monstrosity of Poverty 124
Conclusion 129
CHAPTER THREE The American Girl in London: Gender, Journalism, and Social Investigation in the Late Victorian Metropolis 140
Journalism as Autobiography, Autobiography as Fiction 142
Gender and Journalism 151
An "American Girl" Impersonating London's Laboring Women 155
Conclusion 177
PART TWO: CROSS-CLASS SISTERHOOD AND BROTHERHOOD IN THE SLUMS 181
CHAPTER FOUR The Politics and Erotics of Dirt: Cross-Class Sisterhood in the Slums 183
Cross-Class Sisterhood and the Politics of Dirt 184
"There will be something the matter with the ladies" 198
"Nasty Books": Dirty Bodies, Dirty Desires in Women's Slum Novels 204
Conclusion: "White Gloves" and "Dirty Hoxton Pennies" 222
CHAPTER FIVE The "New Man" in the Slums: Religion, Masculinity, and the Men's Settlement House Movement 228
The Sources of "Brotherhood" in late Victorian England 231
"Modern Monasteries," "Philanthropic Brotherhoods," and the Origins of the Settlement House Movement 236
Religion and Codes of Masculinity 248
"True hermaphrodites realised at last": Sexing the Male Settlement Movement 259
A Door Unlocked: The Politics of Brotherly Love in the Slums 276
CONCLUSION 282
MANUSCRIPT SOURCES 289
NOTES 293
INDEX 379

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