By Katharina Boehm (eds.)
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Extra resources for Bodies and Things in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
They have tentacular roots in the text. Perhaps an open-ended attention to the ‘stored humanity’ in things, and the way they ‘share’ lives, as Rilke put it, is a way to begin. If things ‘store’ humanity they will store, among other histories, histories of the body. Humanly made artefacts come close upon the body because they are made by it, and bodily experience, of course, is historical. Below I look at the way the relationship between the body and artefacts is governed by ways of organizing bodies and things conceptually Circumventing the Subject–Object Binary 21 and actually in the nineteenth-century text, and by the anxieties that these structures provoked.
During Jane’s profound depressive illness and convalescence following the trauma of the red room, the nursery maid brings her a pastry on a plate she had previously been forbidden to touch: Bessie’s offering is a belated, though sincere, act of mothering, the second genuine act of loving kindness described in the narrative. The first is by a man, the apothecary, Lloyd, who attends the child after her fit, ‘lifting me up . . more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before’ (23). Acts of mothering are thus associated with physical and mental illness and exhaustion and with both men and women.
48 Did the novel find a way out of the impasse of distorted experience that is inherent in the subject–object binary? How did it deal with the three anxieties I have mentioned: unstable bodily permeability, the metamorphosis of things and the problem of possession and property? I believe that what I have called Victorian surrealism, the grotesque, was well aware of Marx’s table phenomenon, as I will call it, and dealt with it through deconstruction and parody, using the strategies of the grotesque against itself.