Collations: Book Forum on Emily Steinlight’s Populating the Novel
V21 Collations: Book Forum welcomes Daniel Kasper, Rithika Ramamurthy, and David Womble in conversation about Emily Steinlight’s splendid new book Populating the Novel: Literary Form and the Politics of Surplus Life (Cornell, 2018). Steinlight deftly surveys the literary forms wherein writers responded to exponential population growth by “radically rearticulat[ing] what it means to belong to a human aggregate” (2). Charting a pathway from Wordsworth and Malthus to Dickens, Hardy and the Sensation novelists, Populating the Novel productively reoccupies our modern understanding of the “biopolitical imagination” with the many texts, hailing from diverse literary and scientific fields, that helped readers navigate the experiences, and attendant problems, of urban life. In doing so, it also brilliantly reorients our thinking about biopolitical governance from a retrospective Foucauldian reflection on the past into the immanent critiques of nineteenth-century thinkers who can help us more fully explain our modern theories to ourselves. By thinking with and through the efforts of these writers to “[invest] power in an embodied populace” (8), Steinlight also richly captures the forms of resistance that these literatures helped their readers to imagine and that might afford us new grounds for hope.
|Reflection by Daniel Kasper||Reflection by Rithika Ramamurthy||Reflection by David Womble|
Maeve Adams, Convener
Maeve Adams and Justin Raden, co-editors