Manufacturing Culture: Vindications of Early Victorian Industry

Manufacturing Culture: Vindications of Early Victorian Industry

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Overview

From Robert Southey to William Morris, British social critics in the Romantic tradition consistently stigmatized industry as a threat to aesthetic or humanistic "culture." Joseph Bizup argues that early Victorian advocates of industry sought to resist the power inherent in this opposition by portraying automatic manufacture itself as a cultural force or agent. He traces the contours of this new proindustrial rhetoric as it coalesced in two mutually reinforcing discourses: the contentious debate over the factory system and its social consequences that raged throughout the 1830s and 1840s, and the extensive discussions of the social and commercial benefits of good design that culminated in the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Through careful readings of a diverse array of texts, including treatises on factories and machinery, medical studies of the working classes, theoretical discussions of the decorative arts, and lectures on the Great Exhibition, Bizup shows that liberal proponents of industry such as Andrew Ure, Charles Babbage, James Phillips Kay, and Henry Cole aestheticized manufacture by interpreting its concrete agents and products—whether they be factory operatives, systems of machinery, mass-produced copies, or elaborately crafted "art manufactures"—as emblems of a prior conceptual unity or beauty. They thus allied industry with culture by portraying industry as one realization of the organic ideal central to the idea of culture. Bizup concludes with an examination of John Ruskin’s and William Morris’s efforts to counter this sort of rhetorical maneuvering by treating cultured manliness as a figure for the cooperative impulse they both hoped would replace competitive self-interest as society’s organizing value.

By showing that culture could not be opposed to industry in any pure or absolute sense, Manufacturing Culture both enriches our understanding of the Victorian debates over industrialization and contributes greatly to the ongoing scholarly exploration of the complex genealogy of our modern concept of culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813922461
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Publication date: 12/15/2003
Series: Victorian Literature and Culture Series
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Joseph Bizup is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Acknowledgmentsxi
Introduction: Industry as Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain1
1"One Co-operative Body" The Rhetoric of the Factory System18
2"Beautiful Combinations" Abstraction and Technological Beauty in the Works of Charles Babbage51
3"A Debilitated Race" Savageness in Social Investigation and Design Theory84
4"Appropriate Beauty" The Work of Ornament in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction115
5"What You Ought to Learn" Industrial Culture and the Exhibition of 1851147
6"Only a Machine Before" Manliness and Mechanism in Ruskin and Morris177
Notes205
Works Cited213
Index221

What People are Saying About This

"Manufacturing Culture may well begin new investigations into the language of aesthetics during the Victorian era and will offer readers new insights into how to begin those investigations. Bizup's method is excellent, his scholarship very thorough, and his reintroduction of Ure, Gaskell, Kay, and others into discussions of Victorian social policy and aesthetic theory is a service to the field." -- Joseph W. Childers, author of Novel Possibilities: Fiction and the Formation of Early Victorian Culture

Joseph W. Childers

Manufacturing Culture may well begin new investigations into the language of aesthetics during the Victorian era and will offer readers new insights into how to begin those investigations. Bizup’s method is excellent, his scholarship very thorough, and his reintroduction of Ure, Gaskell, Kay, and others into discussions of Victorian social policy and aesthetic theory is a service to the field.

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