Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This dissertation uses the works of Joseph Conrad, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Anthony Trollope to examine how the financial developments of the mid to late Victorian period led authors to consider the potential social productivity of labor that both political economists and its critics had labeled "unproductive." These novels, as part of an emerging mass culture, express a fascination with how different kinds of labor--including the labor of narration--can increase a society's productive power by creating new collective subjects, whether economic collectives like the joint-stock company, rhetorical communities premised on modes of address or forms of language, or character systems like the interlocked narrative roles of minor characters in the multiplot novel. These novels serve as an entry point for an archaeology of immaterial labor--that is to say, labor that does not produce an alienable commodity but rather ideas, signs, and affects. In the twenty-first century, immaterial labor marks the increased dominance of intellectual and service labor to post-industrial economies. In the nineteenth century, such labor was economically productive not just in authorship but in the burgeoning service sector of the post-1850 British economy, which included the British imperial project, international finance, corporate administration, shipping and insurance work. Moreover, although classical economics excluded domestic service and so-called women's work excluded from economic productivity, the British novel implicitly recognized the role of such labor in social production, albeit not in economic terms. This work considers the thematic intersection of these different modes of unproductive labor, and their frequent portrayal as forms of criminal or fraudulent action, as an awareness and rethinking of a world marked by a highly socialized mode of production. On the one hand, it examines what qualifies as productive labor in political economy, marginal utility theory, and Marxist economics. On the other hand, it examines changes in narrative form and rhetorical construction within the novels themselves in light of such economic work to describe the proliferation of minor characters in these novels as well as their reliance on sentimental modes of recognition within narrative construction.
2, iv, 449 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 432-449).
Copyright 2009 Joshua Aaron Gooch