The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

Synopsis

Scholars have long argued that nations, as imagined communities, are constituted through the incitement of feelings and the operations of fantasy. Can we say the same about the set of disciplinary and regulatory institutions that we call the state? Can we think of it as constituted by feelings and fantasies, too? Zarena Aslami argues that late Victorian novels certainly did. Revisiting major works by Olive Schreiner, Thomas Hardy, and George Gissing, among others, Aslami shows how novels dramatized the feelings and fantasies of a culture that was increasingly optimistic, as well as increasingly anxious, about the state's capacity to "step in" and help its citizens achieve the good life.

In this study of late Victorian culture, Aslami reveals how a historically specific and intriguing fantasy of the state was thought to animate citizens' psychic lives. This fantasy starred the modern state as a heroic actor with whom one has a relationship and from whom one desires something. While she tracks fantasies of the state in political writing, Aslami argues that novels were a privileged site for meditating on its more tragic implications.
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