Daniel Kasper responds to David Womble

I always find it a rush when a conceptual model like Steinlight’s isn’t so much surprising as it is seemingly inevitable, and David Womble’s deployment of Populating the Novel to describe the subject position of Felix Holt clarifies the power of what Steinlight has done. Of course the introduction of demography-as-massifying would conflict with the liberalism-as-individuating across the Victorian era. And thus, wherever the individual body and the body politic are concurrently under scrutiny by hegemonic power, the logic of power would be contradictory—Felix is both the single cell of a larger mass, powerless to act, and the singular body, cut off from outside influence and therefore completely in control of himself. Such contradiction would follow from Foucault’s own warning against assuming that biopolitical logic instantly overrode disciplinary mechanisms; instead, there is an uneasy and fractured peace between the two modes of power in the modern era. That Steinlight’s work pushes us to reconsider how individuals like Felix are pulled between the two modes of governing logic is the strength of her thesis. In revising our assumptions about how the Victorian novel functions, Steinlight seems to revise our conception of how biopolitical logic impacts those individual bodies caught within oppressive ideological regimes.

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