The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel

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Political economy

It is a difficult read but quite absorbing. Hard Times was the only one of the books discussed that I have read myself.


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I wondered, while reading it, whether Dickens was confused about what he was criticizing. It was philosophical, but not what I expected.

The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel

The chapter straightened out some of my thoughts. I bought this book because it combined two of my interests: 19th century literature and I am pretty sure the natural home of this book is a university library. I bought this book because it combined two of my interests: 19th century literature and economics. However, it also touches on another interest, sustainability.


  • Hard Times and the Somaeconomics of the Early Victorians.
  • The Body Economic : Catherine Gallagher : .
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I have not read Our Mutual Friend, but its premise sounds interesting. The economic angle of Daniel Deronda was more to do with the storyline being very different to Elliot's other books.

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Like many great artists, Elliot worried about repeating herself. Callagher likens this to a marginal rate of utility. For example, if your mother sent you to school with three bananas in your packed lunch, you might swap a banana for an apple, because although you really like bananas, you don't like the third one as much as the first. Callagher uses two definitions of economics that I had never heard of before: bio-economics and soma-economics.

Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow - Class of Fall 2010

Bio-economics is related to the work of Robert Malthus' ideas. Populations increase until the food supply starts to fail, at which point life becomes a struggle to survive.

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Soma-economics relates to Jeremy Bentham's ideas of utility. People sacrifice part of their life to work be able to enjoy their leisure. Work is boring and tiring, but without it you couldn't afford to buy and do the things you want.

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Anyway, I am sure Catherine Gallagher's students enjoy her lectures. Sibel rated it really liked it Jul 20, Henrik rated it really liked it Dec 20, Matt Kaul rated it liked it Mar 19, Jennifer rated it it was amazing May 10, Jenn McCollum rated it really liked it Oct 30, Rachel rated it really liked it Nov 12, Fatbirdsdontfly rated it it was ok Oct 20, Duffy Garber rated it liked it Feb 28, Simon Workman rated it liked it Feb 11, Hanne rated it it was amazing Aug 23, Debolina rated it it was amazing Aug 14, Catherine rated it really liked it May 31, Leeann rated it it was amazing Jan 19, Beth rated it really liked it Jan 10, Melissa rated it really liked it Aug 14, Molly rated it really liked it Dec 02, Diana Stout rated it really liked it May 16, Miranda rated it liked it Jun 08, Jason added it Dec 23, Susan added it Sep 24, Kayla Mckinney added it Sep 30, Deniz added it Oct 01, TheVictorianist added it Oct 04, Kirsten added it Apr 05, Paul Jackson marked it as to-read Aug 17, Tiffany marked it as to-read Jan 14, Jane Hu is currently reading it Feb 16, Pavel marked it as to-read Apr 25, Erica marked it as to-read May 16, Annie marked it as to-read Jul 06, Joyce marked it as to-read Aug 18, Kate marked it as to-read Dec 12, Flore Janssen marked it as to-read Jun 11, Christoph marked it as to-read Aug 28, More about this book.

Introduction [PDF]. The Body Economic.

It is a rare achievement. Gallagher's treatments of the four novels she examines in detail are also complex and rewarding.

The Body Economic: Life, Death, And Sensation In Political Economy And The Victorian Novel

Her analysis of Daniel Deronda, which turns on the resemblance between Jevon's marginal utility formula and Eliot's exploration of Gwendolen's and Elit's storries about being redundant--'a final increment' that can never be as desirable as its predecessors--is a tour de force that illuminates the novel in fascinating ways. The Body Economic will doubtless become required reading for anyone seeking to understand the complex lines of affiliation and resistance between economic theory and the literary text in the mid-Victorian period.

Gallagher's use of political economy to explain the most puzzling features of Dickens's novel is inspirational, and it will likely become a model for future studies. No other literary critic writes with such an assured and lucid grasp of both the novel and the history of economic theory. Gallagher offers a fundamentally original and revisionary understanding of Victorian culture and of modernist literature as well.