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Queer Economic Dissonance and Victorian Literature

Meg Dobbins

204 pp. 6 x 9
Pub Date: November, 2022

Subjects: Victorian Studies
British and Irish Literary Studies
Literary Studies, 19th-Century

order Hardcover $69.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1486-2
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“Dobbins’s book helps reveal a newer view of nineteenth-century fiction that is hardly corseted by conventional sexual and economic narratives. Indeed, I find it difficult to fault this fascinating book.” —Brenda McKay, George Eliot Review

“Dobbins foregrounds the eccentric, the antinormative, and the messy elements of Victorian economic subjects and their practices, all the while achieving an excellent balance of theoretical discussion, historical work, and smart close readings of literary texts. She engages with a diversity of contemporary scholarship with authority and verve.” —Aeron Hunt, author of Personal Business: Character and Commerce in Victorian Literature and Culture

In nineteenth-century Britain, the word queer was associated not only with same-sex desire but also with irregular forms of financial association and trust. Queer Economic Dissonance and Victorian Literature centers this forgotten facet of queer by recovering an alternative economic narrative of the Victorian period: one of economic excess, waste, debt, and downward mobility. Drawing on insights from intersectional queer theory and economic literary criticism, as well as astute readings of works by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Mary Seacole, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde, Meg Dobbins argues that eccentric economic figures like Black entrepreneurs, childless widows, and working-class benefactors represent sites of queerness––forms of economic desire, identity, strategy, or relation that become sites of friction within the developing social and institutional norms of nineteenth-century capitalism. Dobbins argues that Victorian authors document the everyday economic struggles of those cast aside, left behind, and fundamentally transfigured by modern capitalism. Rather than rejecting capitalist ideology, these authors queer socioeconomic norms, shedding light on the provocative ways Victorians made capitalism livable, and even pleasurable. In this way, Queer Economic Dissonance rearticulates the link between erotic and economic forms of dissonance in capitalist society.

Meg Dobbins is Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University.



Introduction    Queer Accounts

Chapter 1        Dickensian Queer Street

Chapter 2        Jane Eyre’s Purse

Chapter 3        Black Debt and Social Capital in The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

Chapter 4        The Progressive State and Queer Family Values: George Eliot’s Widows, Misers, and Disobedient Daughters

Coda    Oscar Wilde and Sebastian Melmoth

Works Cited


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