1st Edition

The Significance of Fabrics in the Writings of Elizabeth Gaskell Material Evidence

By Amanda Ford Copyright 2023
    212 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    212 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Elizabeth Gaskell’s writings abound in references to a cultural materiality encompassing different types of fabric, stuffs, calicoes, chintzes and fine-point lace. These are not merely the motifs of the Realist genre but reveal a complex polysemy. Utilizing a metonymic examination of these tropes, this volume exposes the dramatic structural and socio-economic upheaval generated by industrialization, urbanization and the widening sphere of empire. The material evidence testifies to the technological and production innovations evolving diachronically for the period, and the evolution of Manchester as the industrial ‘Cottonpolis’ that clothed the world by the 1840s. This volume analyses Gaskell’s manipulation of the materiality, arguing its firm roots lie in the quotidian of women’s domestic and provincial life within the growing ranks of the middle classes. Exploring Gaskell’s tactile imagination, an embodied relationship with fabrics and sewing, a function of her daily life from an early age, this volume provides insight into the sensory aspects of cloth and its ability to stir affective responses, emotions and memories, whereby worn fabrics and even the absence of previous textile treasures, is poignant, recreating layers of recollection. This book aims to restore the pulsating, dynamic context of ordinary women’s dressed lives and presents innovative interpretations of Gaskell’s texts.


    Chapter One: 'Women’s chops and changes’: Stuff, Woollens and Kasmir Shawls

    Chapter Two: Cottons, Calicoes and ‘Atrocious Prints’

    Chapter Three: Grave Concerns: The Fabrics of Loss and Mourning in Mary Barton

    Chapter Four: Ruffles, Old point and Net Curtains

    Chapter Five: Silks and Showiness

    Conclusion: Material Twists and Surface Depth


    Amanda Ford received a Ph.D. in English Literature from King’s College, London, in 2021, and her M.A., awarded with a distinction, in 2014. Prior to academic studies, she held senior positions in investment banks. Inspired by her research, she is writing a novel featuring a seamstress whom Gaskell befriended; she is also studying novel writing at the Faber Academy.