Clare Pettitt is Lecturer in Victorian Literature at King's College London, a Bye-Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and Research Director of a five-year Leverhulme Research Project in Victorian Studies. She works on the literary and cultural history of the nineteenth century and is author of Patent Inventions: Intellectual Property and the Victorian Novel (2004) and Dr Livingstone, I Presume: Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers and Empire (2007). She is also editing Stanley's In Darkest Africa and working on a chapter for the Cambridge History of English Literature: The Victorian Period on 'Bridging the Spaces: Communication and Technology'. Her first piece of work for the Leverhulme Project was the design of a new MA Course Module at King's College London entitled 'Victorian Pasts' which uses text, the visual image and material culture to examine the ways in which writers negotiated with different kinds of pasts. Her research on the project will begin with an examination of print culture, translation and reprinting in the early nineteenth century.
This review essay takes Bill Brown's question, how we ask things 'to make meaning, to remake ourselves, to organize our anxieties and affections, and to sublimate our fears and shape our fantasies' as a starting point for considering Dickens's affective relationships with household objects (now on display at the Charles Dickens Museum). Quite what they meant to him and what his affective relationship to them might now mean to us is a question which – if taken properly seriously – plunges us into a profound encounter with the object world – with the plethora of things that make up our daily habitudes. Reviewing recent studies on the material imagination by Bill Brown, Elaine Freedgood and Carolyn Steedman, this essay examines the relationship between the subject and the material in the Victorian novel.