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«You’re obliged to have recourse to bodies»

Corporeal proliferation, class, and literary taste in M. E. Braddon’s revision of The Outcasts

Anne-Marie Beller    Loughborough University, UK    

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abstract

The sensation novel was frequently criticised for its corporeality and vulgar depictions of physical violence. M. E. Braddon was identified as a prime offender in this respect, yet Braddon’s anonymous writing for the penny fiction market displays considerably more explicit emphasis on corporeality than any of her relatively restrained three-volume novels. In contrast to her middle-class novels, where, as her character Sigismund Smith advises, the emphasis should all be on «one body», Braddon’s penny bloods proliferate bodies, in the dual sense of corpses (referred to by Smith in my title) and also through extensive casts of characters and multiple plot-lines. An analysis of the revisions Braddon made to her penny serial The Outcasts before its publication in 3 volumes as Henry Dunbar elucidates mid-Victorian perceptions of the «vulgarization» of taste and the «classed» nature of genres. Bourdieu’s theory of «impure taste» is employed to assess the ways in which Braddon’s treatment of «bodies» engages questions of literary taste and negotiates the different generic conventions operating between the penny serial and the 3-volume novel. 

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