Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

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Introduction: The Biopolitical Imagination

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pp. 1-34

Prefacing his life story with an apology for the excesses he is about to describe, Thomas De Quincey paraphrases Terence to explain the philosophy of an opium eater such as himself: “ Humani nihil à se alienum putat ” (7). His transient existence in London, his friendship with a prostitute, his drug experiments and exotic visions may be unusual, he owns, but they form part of the range of human experience—and nothing that is human is alien to him. Yet his confession narrates a process quite at odds with this sentiment. He loses, by measures, the capacity to recognize anything...

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1. Populating Solitude: Malthus, the Masses, and the Romantic Subject

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pp. 35-73

In the summer and fall of 1798, two anonymous publications caught the attention of English critics: William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads , which introduced what Wordsworth called a “new species of poetry” and charted a bold course for its future, and the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population , which advanced a troubling hypothesis about the future of the human species. Apart from the mixed reviews both initially received, there would seem to be little common ground between the experimental volume...

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2. Political Animals: The Victorian City, Demography, and the Politics of Creaturely Life

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pp. 74-106

Mary Shelley was not the last to imagine man as an endangered species. The figure of the afflicted social body at the heart of The Last Man , too, in the 1830s and 1840s became axiomatic to the emerging social sciences, which sought to organize large societies around the premise that human life is always potentially at risk: susceptible to contagion, pollution, and degeneration and imperiled by exposure to adverse conditions that are always partly but never entirely of its own making. The Victorian sciences of society grounded their epistemology in the knowledge of these biological...

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3. Dickens’s Supernumeraries

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pp. 107-137

In a classic Dickensian moment, the thirdperson narrator of Bleak House paraphrases the ominous political speculations of Sir Leicester Dedlock’s distinguished guests at Chesney Wold, all of whom are agreed on at least one point: that in matters of state, “nobody is in question” but themselves.

A people there are, no doubt—a certain large number of supernumeraries, who are to be occasionally addressed, and relied upon for...

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4. The Sensation Novel and the Redundant Woman Question

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pp. 138-165

In an 1862 issue of The National Review , essayist William Rathbone Greg alerts readers to a demographic trend he regards as new and alarming: nearly a million unmarried English women who, “not having the natural duties and labours of wives and mothers,” are compelled to work for a living and “lead an independent and incomplete existence of their own” (47). His article—titled “Why Are Women Redundant?”—cites anecdotal evidence as well as census data to illustrate a deviation from domestic norms, a tendency spanning the class spectrum and surprisingly...

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5. “Because We Are Too Menny”

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pp. 166-209

The conventions of sensation fiction outlasted their genre. In fact, as the previous chapter suggested, it was all but impossible to construct a workable marriage plot in the wake of Braddon’s, Collins’s, and Wood’s overcrowding of domestic fiction. Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge , which opens with the sensational scene of a wife sale and closes with the death of its protagonist, produces superfluous wives and daughters as well as husbands, fathers, and workers from beginning to end....

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Conclusion

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pp. 210-224

The advent of modernism—anticipated in Hardy’s later novels—marks a pivot point in the literary politics of population, hence my concluding with the end of the nineteenth century. Tess of the D’Urbervilles , avowing that “the world is only a psychological phenomenon,” leans toward a subjectivism that Virginia Woolf will make programmatic; “there is no such place as ‘the world,’” she contends, “no such life as ‘life as it is’” (“Novels of George Gissing” 360). The call to “look within,” per Woolf ’s...

Notes

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pp. 225-248

Bibliography

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pp. 249-266

Index

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pp. 267-278