Material Culture

Deborah Wynne

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Material Culture

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Material culture is a broad term covering all aspects of the material world, including clothing, household goods, tools, buildings, roads, books, periodicals, photographs, paintings, museums, and ornaments. In other words, material culture encompasses everything which involves the design, manufacture, and use of the material world. The Victorian period coincided with the development of mass production, the industrial revolution transforming Britain from a rural economy to an urban industrialized nation. Social historians of the period have long explored the abundance of products generated by the industrial revolution; however, there has in recent years been a growing interest in the study of commodity cultures and consuming practices. These have generated new areas of debate in literary studies, resulting in examinations of representations of material culture in the work of Victorian writers. From the industrial novels of Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell to the work of John Ruskin, William Morris and Walter Pater, Victorians engaged in complex ways with the diversity of material cultural forms, whether cheap cotton goods, handmade crafts, or the art and architecture of the period. Research has also moved toward examinations of the global exchange of goods between Britain and its Empire, the display of artifacts in the newly built museums of Victorian London, the development of retail centers in towns and cities, the advertisements of goods in periodicals and on the streets, the cultural role of the fashion industry, representations of objects in literature, design reform movements such as Arts and Crafts, the Victorian home, the collection of objects and collecting practices along with other human interactions with the material world. Research on Victorian literature and material culture often engages with a range of disciplines, including social history and cultural studies.

Article.  6164 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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