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141 Reviews he terms the“music-hall lament,” an elegiac discourse proclaiming that“what was most vital and most endangered about the English people could be found in the music hall” (24), was still very much alive into the 1960s and possibly beyond and its mapping over time would tell us much about the construction of Englishness.There are, too, many other more obviously “material” issues relating to the middle-class enthusiasm for variety that await our attention. As well as providing plentiful material for debate in his chosen field, Faulk reminds us that the subject of music hall more widely is far from exhausted and is one that any serious student of Victorian and Edwardian culture must engage with. Dav e Russell University of Central Lancashire • Home on the Rails:Women,the Railroad,and the Rise of Public Domesticity by Amy G. Richter; pp. xiii + 272. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. $19.95 paper. In 1871 a book of railway anecdotes submitted a question to its readers, with the intention of having a little fun at the expense of American women riding the rails:“Why is a fine woman like a locomotive?”The answer:“Because she draws a train after her, scatters the sparks, and transports the males” (32). The humour is simplistic but nevertheless indicative of an ambivalence at the heart of nineteenth-century American social discourse about women in the public sphere. As Amy Richter observes in her recent study, Home on the Rails: Women,the Railroad,and the Rise of Public Domesticity, the prevalence of such jokes in nineteenth-century print culture suggested that women were out of place in the realm of industrial travel even while the number of women travelers was growing exponentially. Richter develops this central paradox into a full-fledged account of the cultural exchanges between the lives of everyday women riding the rails and the supposedly separate spheres of female domesticity and male public life. As the latest, and indeed one of the finest, studies of the cultural implications of nineteenth-century railway travel, Richter’s book should join the ranks of such noteworthy studies as Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s The Railway Journey (1986) and Michael Freeman’s Railways and the Victorian Imagination (1999).To date, much has been written about the railway’s “annihilation of space by time,” and the resulting industrialization of the modern individual. By way of complementing the already rich discussion of the railway’s influence in the fields of medicine, biology, geography, psychology, and economics, Richter’s study offers a more personal and poignant reading of the experiences of women passengers.The victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 142 strength of Home on the Rails lies precisely in its particular attention to accounts from the personal diaries, journals, biographies, autobiographies, and personal correspondences of a wide range of American women.While such personal documents have the feel of a counter-narrative to recent critical preconceptions of the nineteenth-century railroad as an alienating mode of travel, Richter incorporates the voices of women travelers into the larger field of discussion about the domesticity of railway travel. Richter’s initial acknowledgment that“the line between public and private [in recent cultural criticism] has become so blurry that the dichotomy has lost all explanatory power” (6) seems at first glance to suggest an interest in revisiting a by now outdated critical approach to nineteenth-century gender and sexuality. Indeed, her central premise that the American railroad was formulated as a“hybrid sphere” (8) does entrench the cultural history of railway travel within the context of a transformation of public and private spheres. This sense of a mediation between public and private manifested itself as a “fantasy of public domesticity” (65), promoted by railway engineers, developers, and advertisers in order to appeal to both male and female travelers. Richter’s meticulous attention to detail and willingness to unearth seemingly obscure illustrations and public documents should impress those with an interest in nineteenth-century American print culture, but the real strength of the overall argument lies in its insistence on the complexity of the public/private dichotomy in the industrial economy of railway development. The opening chapters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 141-144
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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