Alastair Owens, Nigel Jeffries, Karen Wehner and Rupert Featherby
Journal of Victorian Culture, Vol. 15, No. 2, August 2010, 212–225
Among the more notable shifts within the intellectual landscape of the humanities in recent years has been the ‘epistemological movement away from the cultural to the material, from questions of representation to matters of process, practice and effect’. This renewed interest in materiality and the ‘more-than-representational’ worlds that individuals inhabit has taken many forms and has emerged in different disciplines in a variety of ways. However, among cultural historians of nineteenth-century cities, interest in the materiality of urban life has been more limited. Indeed, in the case of Victorian London, the focus of much recent scholarship – emanating from a wide range of disciplines – has been on the immaterial: the construction of power, meaning and identity through representation.
Interest in the poetics and politics of representations of Victorian London is now so deeply embedded in mainstream historical practice that there is a mounting case for looking beyond the narrative conventions through which the city was imagined – often, predictably, from a ‘lofty, white, male, middle-class’ viewpoint – to consider instead lived experience and practice.