British Victorians were obsessed with fluids-with their scarcity
and with their omnipresence. By the mid-nineteenth century,
hundreds of thousands of citizens regularly petitioned the
government to provide running water and adequate sewerage, while
scientists and journalists fretted over the circulation of bodily
fluids. In The Social Life of Fluids, Jules Law traces the
fantasies of power and anxieties of identity precipitated by these
developments as they found their way into the plotting and rhetoric
of the Victorian novel.
Analyzing the expression of scientific understanding and the
technological manipulation of fluids-blood, breast milk, and
water-in six Victorian novels (by Charles Dickens, George Eliot,
George Moore, and Bram Stoker), Law traces the growing anxiety
about fluids in Victorian culture from the beginning of the
sanitarian movement in the 1830s through the 1890s. Fluids, he
finds, came to be regarded as the most alienable aspect of an
otherwise inalienable human body, and, paradoxically, as the least
rational element of an increasingly rationalized environment.
Drawing on literary and feminist theory, social history, and the
history of science and medicine, Law shows how fluids came to be
represented as prosthetic extensions of identity, exposing them to
contested claims of kinship and community and linking them
inextricably to public spaces and public debates.
Subjects: Language & Literature
Table of Contents
You are viewing the table of contents
You do not have access to this
on JSTOR. Try logging in through your institution for access.