The Socio-Literary Imaginary in 19th and 20th Century Britain: Victorian and Edwardian Inflections, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Socio-Literary Imaginary in 19th and 20th Century Britain

Victorian and Edwardian Inflections, 1st Edition

Edited by Maria K. Bachman, Albert D. Pionke


232 pages

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Hardback: 9780367371319
pub: 2019-10-09
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At once an invitation and a provocation, The Socio-Literary Imaginary represents the first collection of essays to illuminate the historically and intellectually complex relationship between literary studies and sociology in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. During the ongoing emergence of what Thomas Carlyle, in "Signs of the Times" (1829), pejoratively labeled a new "Mechanical Age," Britain’s robust tradition of social thought was transformed by professionalization, institutionalization, and the birth of modern disciplinary fields. Writers and thinkers most committed to an approach grounded in empirical data and inductive reasoning, such as Harriet Martineau and John Stuart Mill, positioned themselves in relation to French positivist Auguste Comte’s recent neologism "la  sociologie." Some Victorian and Edwardian novelists, George Eliot and John Galsworthy among them, became enthusiastic adopters of early sociological theory; others, including Charles Dickens and Ford Madox Ford, more  idiosyncratically both complemented and competed with the "systems of society" proposed by their social scientific contemporaries. Chronologically bound within the period from the 1830s through the 1920s, this volume expansively reconstructs their expansive if never collective efforts. Individual essays focus on Comte, Dickens, Eliot, Ford, and Galsworthy, as well as Friedrich Engels, Elizabeth Gaskell, G. H. Lewes, Virginia Woolf, and others. The volume's introduction locates these author-specific contributions in the context of both the international intellectual history of sociology in Britain through the First World War and the interanimating intersections of sociological and literary  theory from the work of Hippolyte Taine in the 1860s through the successive linguistic and digital turns of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Table of Contents


Maria K. Bachman and Albert D. Pionke

Mill, Comte, and the Literature of Sociological Critique

Albert D. Pionke

Harriet Martineau, Sociological Foremother

Deborah Anna Logan

"The Shortest Way Out of Manchester": Literary Sociology, Sociological Literature, and the Substance Abuse Question

Carol Margaret Davison

Harriet Martineau and the Narrative Transmission of Social Knowledge

Rachel Stern

World Making: Character as Goffmanian Co-Presence in The Pickwick Papers and Our Mutual Friend

Kristen Starkowski

Goffman Goes to Middlemarch

Audrey Jaffe

Character and Life: Sociological Method in George Eliot’s Fiction

Scott Thompson

Keeping Up Appearances: Criminality, Durkheim, and the Case of A.J. Raffles, Gentleman-Thief

Maria K. Bachman

The Persistence of Social Groups: Georg Simmel and John Galsworthy

Rosetta Young

About the Editors

Maria K. Bachman is Professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University. She is co-editor of Fear, Loathing, and Victorian Xenophobia (The Ohio State University Press, 2013), Reality’s Dark Light: The Sensational Wilke Collins (University of Tennessee Press, 2003), Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and Blind Love (Broadview Press, 2006, 2004) and editor of Wilkie Collins’s "The Dead Hand" and Charles Dickens's "The Bride's Chamber" (University of Tampa Press, 2009). She has also published numerous critical articles and book chapters on Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture and is co-editor of the Victorians Institute Journal.

Albert D. Pionke is the William and Margaret Going Endowed Professor of English at The University of Alabama. He is the author of Plots of Opportunity: Representing Conspiracy in Victorian England (Ohio State University Press, 2004), The Ritual Culture of Victorian Professionals: Competing for Ceremonial Status, 1838-1877 (Ashgate, 2013; Routledge 2016), and Teaching Later British Literature: A Thematic Approach (Anthem, 2019); the co-editor of Victorian Secrecy: Economies of Knowledge and Concealment (Ashgate 2010; Routledge, 2016) and Thomas Carlyle and the Idea of Influence (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2018); and the founding director and principal investigator of Mill Marginalia Online (

About the Series

Among the Victorians and Modernists

Among the Victorians and Modernists

This series publishes monographs and essay collections on literature, art, and culture in the context of the diverse aesthetic, political, social, technological, and scientific innovations that arose among the Victorians and Modernists. Viable topics include, but are not limited to, artistic and cultural debates and movements; influential figures and communities; and agitations and developments regarding subjects such as animals, commodification, decadence, degeneracy, democracy, desire, ecology, gender, nationalism, the paranormal, performance, public art, sex, socialism, spiritualities, transnationalism, and the urban. Studies that address continuities between the Victorians and Modernists are welcome. Work on recent responses to the periods such as NeoVictorian novels, graphic novels, and film will also be considered.

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