Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

By: Seth Koven (author)Paperback

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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."

About Author

Seth Koven is Associate Professor of History at Villanova University and co-editor of "Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States". He has written on a variety of topics, including gender and welfare states, museum politics, sexual politics, and social reform, disability, and child welfare.


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

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780691128009
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 424
  • ID: 9780691128009
  • weight: 567
  • ISBN10: 0691128006

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