This essay intervenes into ongoing debates over the alleged obsolescence of critique by returning to the historical scene of the emergence of depth hermeneutics in the social transformations of the nineteenth century. It argues that present accounts of the exhaustion of depth hermeneutics in fact signal the need for a reinvigorated and complex account of how those explanatory systems were produced, and, along with them, the dialectical valuations of surface and depth that have been so central in in recent scholarship. This essay begins to embark on that project by turning to Victorian social investigator Henry Mayhew's writings in London Labour and the London Poor on the sewers and their scavengers, in order to reflect on the processes by which surface and depth were fused to one another throughout the nineteenth century, such that surfaces came to imply depths that in turn determined surfaces. While this dialectical mode of thinking is quite common currency today, contemporary critical discourse may have nevertheless lost touch with the empirical convictions that initially framed the various forms of a hermeneutics of suspicion.


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pp. 387-410
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