Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Nov 15, 1995 - History - 255 pages
1 Review
With much recent work in Victorian studies focused on gender and class differences, the homogenizing features of 19th-century culture have received relatively little attention. In Making a Social Body, Mary Poovey examines one of the conditions that made the development of a mass culture in Victorian Britain possible: the representation of the population as an aggregate—a social body. Drawing on both literature and social reform texts, she analyzes the organization of knowledge during this period and explores its role in the emergence of the idea of the social body.

Poovey illuminates the ways literary genres, such as the novel, and innovations in social thought, such as statistical thinking and anatomical realism, helped separate social concerns from the political and economic domains. She then discusses the influence of the social body concept on Victorian ideas about the role of the state, examining writings by James Phillips Kay, Thomas Chalmers, and Edwin Chadwick on regulating the poor. Analyzing the conflict between Kay's idea of the social body and Babbage's image of the social machine, she considers the implications of both models for the place of Victorian women. Poovey's provocative readings of Disraeli's Coningsby, Gaskell's Mary Barton, and Dickens's Our Mutual Friend show that the novel as a genre exposed the role gender played in contemporary discussions of poverty and wealth.

Making a Social Body argues that gender, race, and class should be considered in the context of broader concerns such as how social authority is distributed, how institutions formalize knowledge, and how truth is defined.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Stevil2001 - LibraryThing

Mary Poovey’s Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864 examines the way that British society was consolidated in the early nineteenth century, particularly through practices ... Read full review


Making a Social Body British Cultural Formation 18301864
The Production of Abstract Space
Curing the Social Body in 1832 James Phillips Kay and the Irish in Manchester
Anatomical Realism and Social Investigation in Early NineteenthCentury Manchester
Thomas Chalmers Edwin Chadwick and the Sublime Revolution in NineteenthCentury Government
Domesticity and Class Formation Chadwicks 1842 Sanitary Report
Homosociality and the Psychological Disraeli Gaskell and the ConditionofEngland Debate
Speculation and Virtue in Our Mutual Friend

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1995)

Mary Poovey is Samuel Rudin University Professor of the Humanities and professor of English at New York University. Her primary scholarly work focuses on nineteenth-century British literature, history, and culture, although she has also published on eighteenth-century British literature and culture, the history of literary criticism, feminist theory, and economic history.

Bibliographic information