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date: 22 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

By employing Raymond Williams’s concept of a structure of feeling, this essay examines the relationship between novels written during the central decade of the high-Victorian period and its technological, economic, and social developments. In exemplary fiction of the 1860s—from canonical texts by Dickens, Eliot, Collins, and Trollope, to lesser-known works by Oliphant and Linton—many characters are identified as eccentric or otherwise temperamentally unusual, but their quite similar affective responses, even in quite different situations, point toward the need to establish one’s superiority to others and ultimately to one’s circumstances as a defining feature of both the period and fictive representations of it. In this way novels of the 1860s provide telling evidence of what Williams called “the felt sense of the quality of life” as it was experienced during that decade.

Keywords: Fever, Unpleasantness, Values, Structure of feeling, Class, Raymond Williams, Charles Dickens, Margaret Oliphant, George Eliot, Eliza Lynn Linton, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope

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