Wednesday 29 April 2015, Sean Grass: ‘“What money can make of life”: Willing Subjects and Commodity Culture in “Our Mutual Friend”’

Sean Grass (Iowa)

When: Wednesday 29 April 2015, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Where: Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 46 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

Abstract: Beginning with the proposition that Our Mutual Friend takes commodity culture and capitalist exchange as two of its central concerns, this paper argues that Dickens’s novel explores the processes by which Victorian capitalism both commodified the subject and made that commodification appear to belong to a kind of quasi-Darwinian natural order. Key to this process, the novel suggests, is the transformation of the Victorian subjects into texts–wills, letters, biographies, newspaper articles, records of debt—that oblige subjectivity to circulate within a much broader textual economy of paper money, paper shares, paper mills, and paper waste. In other words, I want to discuss the ways in which Our Mutual Friend shows the widespread collapse of the Victorian subject into the realm of property, and in which the novel rebels against the idea that this is a “natural” state of affairs.

Listen to a recording of Sean’s talk here:

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sitemanagerWednesday 29 April 2015, Sean Grass: ‘“What money can make of life”: Willing Subjects and Commodity Culture in “Our Mutual Friend”’

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