Speaking of Suburbia

The Victorian Suburbs in Literature and Culture (forthcoming)

 The Landlady, 1856 (oil on canvas): James Collinson, (1825-81). Credit: Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, UK/Bridgeman Images.  Geraniums and Venetian blinds were familiar Victorian codes for the suburban. The young woman is advertising rooms "to let": numerous Victorian novels begin with a stranger arriving in a suburban locale and working to make sense of the inhabitants.   

The Landlady, 1856 (oil on canvas): James Collinson,
(1825-81). Credit: Sheffield Galleries
and Museums Trust, UK/Bridgeman Images.

Geraniums and Venetian blinds were familiar Victorian codes for the suburban. The young woman is advertising rooms "to let": numerous Victorian novels begin with a stranger arriving in a suburban locale and working to make sense of the inhabitants.   

 

What's it about?

My new book, coming out in 2018 with Yale University Press, explores literary representations of the suburbs from as early as 1820.

Building on work I've published in academic journals (Victorian Literature and Culture, Victorian Review), I'll explore how the stereotype of the dull suburb got started in the first place -- and I'll show that it was, indeed, a stereotype, rather than an expression of a lived reality.

I'll also reveal that some Victorians found the new landscape positively thrilling. For women especially, suburban living facilitated new communities formed around shared interests rather than birth networks. Women writers paint a picture of the suburb as, not so much dull and vulgar, but socially complex, emotionally challenging, aesthetically stimulating, and even a portal into the professions.