Speech and power negotiations in industrial novels from 1849 to 1866

John Condon Murray, University of Rhode Island


This study employs Charlotte Brontë's Shirley (1849), Charles Dickens's Hard Times (1854), and George Eliot's Felix Holt (1866) to evidence how the growth of capitalist production and the development of new technologies of industry within the early- to mid-Victorian periods inspired the prioritization of the printed word over oratory and speech as a means for fulfilling the linguistic power exchanges found common in spoken discourse. Inventions such as Friedrich Gottlob Koenig and Andreas Friedrich Bauer's high-speed printing press enabled mass production and low-cost readership among the working class, who experienced literacy on multiple levels: to educate themselves, to experience leisure and diversion, to confirm their religious beliefs, and to improve their labor skills. Much in the same ways that speech had been used to affirm intersubjectivity, print culture conditioned readers to accept uni-directional exchange of values and interests that would create a community of readers who would be responsive to the expansion of a new technical society and would eventually perform the routines of mechanized labor. Rather than merely romanticizing pre-technological cultures, I wish to suggest that the emergence of technologies of production and print culture within the early- to mid-Victorian periods precipitated the diminution of linguistic exchanges as techné or modes of revealing and critiquing transferences of power, and also for rivaling print culture's representational claims of how linguistic exchanges had been conceptualized and experienced. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

John Condon Murray, "Speech and power negotiations in industrial novels from 1849 to 1866" (2007). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3277000.