Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

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Princeton University Press, 2004 - History - 399 pages
3 Reviews

In the 1880s, fashionable Londoners left their elegant homes and clubs in Mayfair and Belgravia and crowded into omnibuses bound for midnight tours of the slums of East London. A new word burst into popular usage to describe these descents into the precincts of poverty to see how the poor lived: slumming. In this captivating book, Seth Koven paints a vivid portrait of the practitioners of slumming and their world: who they were, why they went, what they claimed to have found, how it changed them, and how slumming, in turn, powerfully shaped both Victorian and twentieth-century understandings of poverty and social welfare, gender relations, and sexuality.

The slums of late-Victorian London became synonymous with all that was wrong with industrial capitalist society. But for philanthropic men and women eager to free themselves from the starched conventions of bourgeois respectability and domesticity, slums were also places of personal liberation and experimentation. Slumming allowed them to act on their irresistible "attraction of repulsion" for the poor and permitted them, with society's approval, to get dirty and express their own "dirty" desires for intimacy with slum dwellers and, sometimes, with one another.

Slumming elucidates the histories of a wide range of preoccupations about poverty and urban life, altruism and sexuality that remain central in Anglo-American culture, including the ethics of undercover investigative reporting, the connections between cross-class sympathy and same-sex desire, and the intermingling of the wish to rescue the poor with the impulse to eroticize and sexually exploit them.

By revealing the extent to which politics and erotics, social and sexual categories overflowed their boundaries and transformed one another, Koven recaptures the ethical dilemmas that men and women confronted--and continue to confront--in trying to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

  

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Review: Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

User Review  - Cynthia - Goodreads

I'm not sure that the individual chapters form a fully cohesive whole, but individually, they are interesting meditations on several issues in the Victorian world that I wasn't aware of. Read full review

Review: Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London

User Review  - Jennifer - Goodreads

I am admitting defeat. Call it summer, but I'm in no mood for belabored academic writing. The ideas are fascinating, the anecdotes are intriguing, but the dense prose is too much for me. Read full review

Contents

Slumming Eros and Altruism in Victorian London
1
Slumming Defined
6
Who Went Slumming? Sources and Social Categories
10
James Hinton and the Hintonians
14
INCOGNITOS FICTIONS AND CROSSCLASS MASQUERADES
23
Workhouse Nights Homelessness Homosexuality and CrossClass Masquerades
25
James Greenwood and London in 1866
31
Reading A Night in a Workhouse
36
An American Girl Impersonating Londons Laboring Women
155
Conclusion
177
CROSSCLASS SISTERHOOD AND BROTHERHOOD IN THE SLUMS
181
The Politics and Erotics of Dirt CrossClass Sisterhood in the Slums
183
CrossClass Sisterhood and the Politics of Dirt
184
There will be something the matter with the ladies
198
Dirty Bodies Dirty Desires in Womans Slum Novels
204
White Gloves and Dirty Hoxton Pennies
222

Responses to A Night in a Workhouse
46
Sexology Social Policy and the 1898 Vagrancy Act
70
Legacies of A Night on Representations of the Homeless Poor
74
Dr Barnardos Artistic Fictions Photography Sexuality and the Ragged Child
88
Facts Fictions and Epistemologies of Welfare
94
The Very Wicked Woman and Sodomany in Dr Barnardos Boys Home
103
Representing the Ragged Child
112
Joseph Merrick and the Monstrosity of Poverty
124
Conclusion
129
The American Girl in London Gender Journalism and Social Investigation in the Late Victorian Metropolis
140
Journalism as Autobiography Autobiography as Fiction
142
Gender and Journalism
151
The New Man in the Slums Religion Masculinity and the Mens Settlement House Movement
228
The Sources of Brotherhood in Late Victorian England
231
Modern Monasteries Philanthropic Brotherhoods and the Origins of the Settlement House Movement
236
Religion and Codes of Masculinity
248
Sexing the Male Settlement Movement
259
The Politics of Brotherly Love in the Slums
276
CONCLUSION
282
MANUSCRIPT SOURCES
289
NOTES
293
INDEX
379
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Seth Koven is Associate Professor of History at Villanova University and co-editor of "Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States." He has written on a variety of topics, including gender and welfare states, museum politics, sexual politics, and social reform, disability, and child welfare.

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