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Reviews209 movement paid lip-service to tiie contemporary concept of 'separate spheres', their actions — canvassing and participating in mass petitioning campaigns — directly challenged distinctions of the public and tiie private. Moreover, with the passage of the 1833 Emancipation Act, British women increasingly became interested in the American abolition movement and this, in turn, served to tear asunder tiie confining walls of hearth and home — of the private sphere of female domesticity. Numerous historians, David Brion Davis in particular, have considered the importance of the nineteenth century debate on the value of free and slave labor. As a corrective to such perspectives, Midgley argues that 'equally significant was the contrast emphasized by women campaigners between a society run by degraded white slave holders who abused black women and undermined family life and a Christian society modelled on British lines which elevated family life and woman's domestic duties' (103). This is a compelling argument, and one which could fruitfully be explored within its early and mid nineteenth century domestic contexts as well. But tiiese subjects lay beyond the bounds of Women Against Slavery. Thoroughly researched and impressively argued, this book contributes a great deal to our understanding of the gendered and dichotomous nature of British abolitionism. Midgley has provided nineteenth century scholars witii a thought provoking study which deserves an audience beyond tiiose specialists for whom it will be essential reading. RICHARD CONNORS University of Alberta Andrew H. Miller. Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. 242. It has become something ofa commonplace to use tiie Great Exhibition as site and symbol, if not fons et origo, of Victorian "commodity culture." Miller's book begins with the use of the glass display window in the early 1 850's, of which the Crystal Palace is the exemplar. He uses his analysis of Victorian commodity culture to explore tiie midVictorians ' "penetrating anxiety . . . that their social and moral world was being reduced to a warehouse of goods and commodities, a display window in which people, their actions, and their convictions were exhibited for the economic appetites of others" (6). Chapters focus on 210Victorian Review readings of, in order, Thackeray and Vanity Fair, the Great Exhibition of 1851, Gaskell and Cranford, Dickens and Our Mutual Friend, TroUope and The Eustace Diamonds, and Eliot and Middlemarch. There is some disjunction between the Crystal Palace Chapter — the historical and theoretical keystone of the book — and the chapters which are essentially close readings of canonical texts and authors. The Crystal Palace Chapter bears the bulk of the burden of historical and cultural explanation for Novels Behind Glass — we lose the sense of the larger social picture in tiie other chapters. MiUer's argument here is that the technology of display celebrated in the Palace created a separate "space of exchange," an "intermediate" space between production and use (and perhaps, implicitly, consumption of the object itself), against which gendered and classed desire could in turn be read. The organization and perception of this space was mediated by the reorganization of space through several technologies, including the "shrinkage" of the world through rail travel, and the emerging notion of the globalizing force of capitalism. Miller also discusses the role of female desire, national pride, labor relations and more in relation to the display of commodities. A discussion of commodities in mid-Victorian novels would have merit, if not freshness, in its own right. However, Miller goes a step farther: "tiie threat of a spectral, menacing material culture does not remain confined to characters in novels; it extends to the authors of those novels as well . . . writing must submit to the same rigorous scrutiny as the domestic activity of wives if it is to avoid being caught up in commodification ... the writers of tiiese texts must scrupulously resist the possibility that, as producers of material culture, they themselves might become the vassals of a representational system that threatens to use them in a levelling economy of undifferentiated reproduction" (221). Each chapter includes some biographical analysis of the author, his or her relations with and attitudes toward commodities, an interpretation of the autiior's attitude toward literature as commodity, authorship as production, and language as capital...


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pp. 209-212
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