chapter  6
A Commodity Reading of Middlemarch
Pages 30

What are the goods that can be interpreted from Middlemarch? e macro view of literature provides a clue but only a clue. In the large-scale literary perspective, the good pro ered by much avant-garde work is renewal, whereas national canons o er national and, in counter-distinction, other national identities. e goods that sustain children’s literature are hopes located with parents and educational legislators. Alice Jenkins and Juliet John make a similar point, in Rereading Victorian Fiction, when they note of Victorian realism that although ‘con rmation of middleclass power is what is partly at stake in the realist novel’, it was also a response to the period of Chartism, Darwinism and social convulsion, to the ‘deep cultural need to make sense of change, to impose order on potential chaos’.1 e good of realism for some of its Victorian audience was a pill to be read daily against ideological distress. On the macro-level, too, there is something more usually hinted at as a ‘quality’ to the work of various authors. Dickens made a great deal of common sense and a sense of fellowship; omas Hardy swore by his sense of outrage; while Conrad preferred a manly call to duty.2 But, as these literatures took place in their economic contexts, their goods also competed with rival goods from other products making similar claims.