Chapter 6: Victorian lawyering and the novel
Chapter 6 Victorian lawyering and the novel
As we have seen in Part I, the 1861 Census proved that a number of cultural and artistic occupations came to be viewed as professions around the mid-nineteenth century. This change in status, which involved the writers themselves, became an object of controversy in the Victorian cultural field as testified by the currently raging debates on the potential debasement of art. The main reasons for such debates were the ambiguous relations that many cultural producers, as manufacturers of customer-oriented commodities, established with the marketplace and their aspirations to social and professional respectability. Sensation novelists, in particular, were caught in an equivocal position. In addition to making a conscious use of lowbrow narrative forms targeting a trans-class audience, they significantly contributed to a process of serialization which downgraded their creations to products of Taylorized labour1. Exactly because they compromised their principles to meet the demands of a thriving literary ‘industry’, these novelists were most sensitive to the questions of artistic value and professionalization that they recurrently sensationalized in their novels.
The “chiaroscuro”2 portraits of people employed in cultural and artistic fields examined in the previous chapters epitomize the complex evolution of an occupational group that was still extremely variegated and lacked internal organization around the mid-century3. Even though they were increasingly viewed as middle-class professionals, the members of this group had indeed the most diverse social origins and ← 205 | 206 → educational levels, worked in a growingly commercialized society and...
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