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Common ScentsComparative Encounters in High-Victorian Fiction$
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Janice Carlisle

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195165098

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195165098.001.0001

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Common Scents

Janice Carlisle (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This afterword comments briefly on Eliot's Middlemarch to indicate the political conclusion to which the argument of this study leads. Although the preceding chapters analyze the plots of the fiction of the 1860s by treating the politics of class in relation to the practices of everyday life, Middlemarch, a novel begun in the last years of that decade, suggests the extent to which such texts also open themselves to more institutionally specific political readings. The debates surrounding the 1866 and 1867 franchise reform bills involved on a national scale the kind of exchange that Victorian novels enact on the level of relations between individuals, and the argument with which this study concludes, like those in the previous chapters, is based on the olfactory data provided by the many novels surveyed earlier and the perspectives on materiality that they offer. The evocative smells of Middlemarch exemplify the relationship between matter and spirit in high-Victorian fiction, and the case of one of its characters connects olfactory experience to the larger, presumably inodorate arena of institutional politics.

Keywords:   class, Eliot, franchise reform, materiality, Middlemarch, olfaction, politics, reform bill

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