The recirculation plot

Patrick R. Chappell
<span title="">2015</span>
This dissertation explores the many second-order economies of nineteenth-century Britain—salvage, recycling, black markets, and imperial plunder—and their relationship to the history of plot design in the Victorian novel. Paradoxically, in the era that saw the rise of the industrially produced commodity, stolen and recycled objects were topics of enormous fascination in economic and sociological writing, particularly for the ways in which the materials circulated, transformed, and resurfaced.
more &raquo; ... is project argues that novelists from the 1830s to 1860s, including Edward Bulwer, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Wilkie Collins, drew on these second-order economies to construct increasingly intricate and sensational plots based on materials' circular mobility and patterns of narrative reappearance. The recirculation plot thus contributed to English fiction's development from the loosely plotted, improvisational forms of the Romantic era to the tightly planned novels of the Victorian era. Along the way, these object-based strategies elicited voluble debates about realism, plausibility, and the reading experience of fiction. This project establishes plot as a medium for seeing the relationship between the material history of reusability and the formal history of narrative design. It thus demonstrates how thing theory and narratology are mutually illuminating methodologies. Moreover, it uses archival research to challenge the critical tendency to see recuperation as tainted by the stigma of filth. Chapter 1 argues the Newgate crime novels of the 1830s exploited melodramatic coincidence to imagine urban interconnectedness via the convergence of stolen property and its dispossessed owner. Chapter 2 claims the overpopulated character economy of Dickens's Bleak House mimics how rag and paper rubbish undergoes covert shifts in value and visibility across time, a phenomenon that sustains the mechanics of surprise and suspense in his multiplot novels more generally. Chapter 3 demonstrates Gaskell's ambivalence [...]
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