David Coombs responds to Elspeth Green

Elspeth Green’s reflection poses a suggestive question about the relationship between work and narration. She extrapolates this question from Tondre’s comparing Eliot’s narrator with Maxwell’s Demon, whose arranging activity can’t be considered work in the terms of Maxwell’s thought experiment. Green is interested in the way this question points to modernism, but I wonder if we might also take it up in relation to the gendered norms of development at the center of The Physics of Possibility. An activity of arranging that is not considered work would be one way to describe both narration and the domestic life of Dorothea and the protagonists of other female bildungsromane whose narrative destiny is to manage a household. Bleak House, of course, draws this parallel very explicitly. Is Maxwell’s Demon the thermodynamic version of the Angel in the House? In any case, the parallel points us towards some tangled connections between intellectual and domestic labor in the nineteenth-century and beyond.

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