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Leslee Thorne-Murphy

Bazaar Literature: Charity, Advocacy, and Parody in Victorian Social Reform Fiction.

Bazaar Literature: Charity, Advocacy, and Parody in Victorian Social Reform Fiction

Oxford University Press, December 2022

Bazaar Literature reorients our understanding of Victorian social reform fiction by reading it in light of the copious amount of literature generated for charity bazaars. Bazaars were ubiquitous during the nineteenth century, part of the vibrant and massive private sector response to a rapidly industrializing society. Typically organized and run by women, charity bazaars were often called fancy fairs since they specialized in ladies’ hand-crafted “fancy” work. Indeed, they were a key method women used to intervene in political, social, and cultural affairs. Yet their conventional purpose—to raise money for charity—has led to their being widely overlooked and misunderstood. Bazaar Literature remedies these misconceptions by demonstrating how the literature written in conjunction with bazaars shaped the social, political, and literary movements of its time. This study draws upon a wide variety of texts printed to be sold at bazaars, including literature by Robert Louis Stevenson, Harriet Martineau, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, alongside fictional depictions of fancy fairs by Charlotte Yonge, George Eliot, Frances Trollope, and Anthony Trollope. Bazaar Literature revises our understanding of the larger literary market in social reform fiction, revealing a parodic, self-critical strain that is paradoxically braided with strident political activism and its realist sensibilities.

Faculty Book lunch review given by Frank Christiansen.