Advertising, Subjectivity and the Nineteenth-Century Novel: by S. Thornton

By S. Thornton

From 1830 to 1870 advertisements introduced in its wake a brand new figuring out of the way the topic learn and the way language operated. Sara Thornton provides a vital second in print tradition, the early acceptance of what we now name a 'virtual' international, and proposes new readings of key texts via Dickens and Balzac.

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Additional resources for Advertising, Subjectivity and the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Dickens, Balzac and the Language of the Walls

Sample text

Text appended to a human figure without consent is an age-old form of humiliation and subjugation and persisted in the punitive practices of Victorian educational establishments: Jane in Jane Eyre and David in David Copperfield are both forced to wear placards as punishment in their schools. 116 Yet in the articles and cartoons we have considered, response is made not with angry remonstrance but with humour. There are ways of neutralizing the ubiquity and force of slogans by imagining excesses above and beyond those already at work in society.

55 Already the advertising circular was the sign of the commercial health of an area, the absence of them a sign of stagnation. In response to the railway, the houses change their façades as they transform themselves into hotels and shops and start to advertise for custom in an attempt to get into the ‘Bradshaw’ railway guide, itself a repository of many advertisements. Dickens comments on the attempts to turn all shops into ‘Railway’ shops such as the ‘Railway Bakery’, but points out that it is not this rash of signs which bothers him but another form of disturbance which he describes as the deteriorating ‘state of mind’ or ‘moral condition’ of the neighbourhood: ‘It is unsettled, dissipated, wandering (I believe nomadic is the crack word for that sort of thing just at present), and don’t know its own mind for an hour’ (48).

Bill posting in this light becomes a form of writing, a game of ‘cadavre exquis’ on the part of players who are ignorant of their involvement in the game. 72 Writing will go its own way independently of the volition of writer, advertiser and bill poster. The walls also offer the palimpsest – a bleeding of one discourse into another, literally, since one poster made wet with rain would allow the one underneath to show through. In the newspaper or magazine the cheap acidic paper would The Language of the Walls 27 allow ink to appear on the other side which often blurred meanings or created new ones.

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