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Extreme DomesticityA View from the Margins$
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Susan Fraiman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780231166348

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231166348.001.0001

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Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain

Domestic Industry in Mary Barton

(p.45) 2 Behind the Curtain
Extreme Domesticity

Susan Fraiman

Columbia University Press

Develops a reading of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) that shifts the discussion of this industrial novel from waged to unwaged industry, from the masculinized factory floor to the feminized workplace of the home. Explores its warmly detailed portrayal of domestic labor in a Victorian working-class community—from preparing food and sewing curtains to caring for children, the sick, and the dying. Further considers the novel’s many amateurs: scientists, firefighters, sleuths, sick-nurses, and herbalists. Supplements Elaine Freedgood’s reading of the Bartons’ cotton curtains to highlight the female labor of sewing them and, beyond their decorative function, their assertion of a working-class right to privacy.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, domestic labor, Victorian amateurs, working-class women, Elaine Freedgoo

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