Advertisement

‘Children of the Street’: Reconfiguring Gender in Gissing’s London

Chapter
  • 27 Downloads

Abstract

Gissing’s representations of London are inevitably caught up in representations of gender. As always, with Gissing, this relationship is fraught with tension, even contradictions: at times the city seems to impose rigid boundaries on the lives of its fictional inhabitants and the conventions of gender that shape their identity, while at other times it seems to grant a kind of freedom that has profound implications for gender and for social progress in general. Focusing on The Nether World (1889) and The Unclassed (1884), I explore these very different visions of the city and its relationship to its inhabitants. Juxtaposing these two particular novels — positioning Gissing the pessimist alongside Gissing the idealist, and the figure of the Victorian angel alongside the streetwalker — generates a curious observation: the city defeats the angel, in the bleak conclusion of The Nether World, while the prostitute in The Unclassed not only secures a happy ending but is endowed with a kind of power to transform the city. But my essay is less concerned with Gissing’s representations of women, a subject which has been productively explored by a number of feminist critics in recent years, than with the way gender itself operates in these novels — that is, the ideological work that it performs.1 I contend that gender is central to the resolution of the social conflicts Gissing explores in these works.

Keywords

Rigid Boundary Social Progress Urban Poverty Happy Ending Ideological Work 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography

  1. Bodenheimer, R. The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction (London: Cornell University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  2. Briggs, A. Victorian Cities (New York: Harper & Row, 1963).Google Scholar
  3. Gissing, G. The Nether World. 1889. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. Gissing, G. The Unclassed. 1884. (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  5. Goode, J. George Gissing: Ideology and Fiction (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. Harsh, C. ‘Gissing’s The Unclassed and the Perils of Naturalism.’ ELH, 59 (1992) 911–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ingham, P. The Language of Gender and Class: Transformation in the Victorian Novel (New York: Routledge, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jameson, F. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  9. Korg, J. George Gissing: A Critical Biography (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  10. Nead, L. Myths of Sexuality. Representations of Women in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988).Google Scholar
  11. Poovey, M. Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ruskin, J. Sesame and Lilies (Orpington, Kent, England: George Allen, 1887).Google Scholar
  13. Walkowitz, J.R. Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2006

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations