In Hunger Movements in Early Victorian Literature, Lesa Scholl explores the ways in which the language of starvation interacts with narratives of emotional and intellectual want to create a dynamic, evolving notion of hunger. Scholl's interdisciplinary study emphasises literary analysis, sensory history, and political economy to interrogate the progression of hunger in Britain from the early 1830s to the late 1860s. Examining works by Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry Mayhew, and Charlotte Bronte, Scholl argues for the centrality of hunger in social development and understanding. She shows how the rhetoric of hunger moves beyond critiques of physical starvation to a paradigm in which the dominant narrative of civilisation is predicated on the continual progress and evolution of literal and metaphorical taste. Her study makes a persuasive case for how hunger, as a signifier of both individual and corporate ambition, is a necessarily self-interested and increasingly violent agent of progress within the discourse of political economy that emerged in the eighteenth century and subsequently shaped nineteenth-century social and political life.
In our age of Effective Altruisms, eating disorders, sugar regulation, and a myriad of responses to global inequality, Lesa Scholl reminds us of what hunger was during the West’s modernization, and what it still may be. She explores key concepts and representations of want, moderation, excess; the dialectics of scarcity and plenty; sensory and aesthetic taste in early Victorian literature and the eclipsing of hunger by taste by the later nineteenth century. Her subtitle, Want, Riots, Migration, reminds us of the timeliness and significance of the topic and the inescapable interconnectedness of response: an historical work for our time.
Regenia Gagnier, University of Exeter and author of The Insatiability of Human Wants
"Lesa Scholl’s Hunger Movements tells the story of these bleak times through the lens of early Victorian writers and the pre-eminent political, social and economic thinkers of the age. Our modern world of excess seems far removed from the starvation caused by the potato blight and the catastrophic disruptions of the Industrial Revolution, but many of the human responses and emotions still resonate.
Its revelations on want, riots and migration gave interesting new perspectives that triggered fresh exploration of some near-forgotten Victorian classics." John Algate, Brisbane writer and journalist The Australian
Table of Contents to come