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Title: Becoming foreign in the Victorian novel: international migration in Little Dorrit and Villette
Authors: Wagner, Tamara Silvia
Keywords: Humanities::Literature
Issue Date: 2021
Source: Wagner, T. S. (2021). Becoming foreign in the Victorian novel: international migration in Little Dorrit and Villette. Journal of Victorian Culture, 26(1), 72-88.
Journal: Journal of Victorian Culture
Abstract: This article analyses the representation of migrant workers in Victorian fiction. While exploring the seldom-discussed experience of such migrants, I argue that in the fiction of the time, migration for work outside of the empire expresses the experience of individual isolation as the result of increasing urban anonymity as well as of global exchanges. The figure of the migrant thereby literalizes modern isolation in an emergent society of strangers. In depicting migratory characters as embodiments of loneliness, while establishing it as a shared experience through parallel plots, nineteenth-century novels map out possible connections in a globalizing world. In parsing the interplay of isolation and imaginary sympathy in two texts of the 1850s, Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit and Charlotte Brontë's Villette, I argue that the experience of feeling foreign while working abroad enables characters to seek connections that transcend boundaries of class and national identity, even as the sympathy they imagine might be flawed, warped by projection and identification. In Little Dorrit, Cavalletto's accident in the streets of London enacts a pivotal moment of imagined sympathy for the recently returned Arthur Clennam that ultimately helps to solve the renegotiation of home and host country in the novel, while in Villette, a female migrant articulates an increasingly widespread experience not only of modern isolation, social invisibility, and cultural disorientation, but also of the power of anonymity. A critical analysis of migratory work in Victorian fiction adds an important new dimension to nineteenth-century global studies.
ISSN: 1355-5502
DOI: 10.1093/jvcult/vcaa034
Schools: School of Humanities 
Rights: © 2020 Leeds Trinity University. All rights reserved.
Fulltext Permission: none
Fulltext Availability: No Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Journal Articles

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