Faculty Book: Talia Schaffer
Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction
(Oxford University Press, 2011)
Domestic handicraft was an extraordinarily popular leisure activity in Victorian Britain, especially among middle-class women. Novel Craft presents what Schaffer terms the “craft paradigm”—a set of beliefs about representation, production, consumption, value, and beauty that were crucial to mid-Victorian thought—and shows how handicrafts expressed anxieties about modernity and offered an alternative to the conventional financial, political, and aesthetic ideas of the era. The book reveals how this mindset evolves in four Victorian novels: Gaskell’s Cranford, Yonge’s The Daisy Chain, Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, and Oliphant’s Phoebe Junior. Featuring illustrations from two centuries of domestic handicraft, Schaffer creates a revealing portrait of a neglected part of nineteenth-century life and highlights its continuing relevance in today’s world of Martha Stewart, women’s crafts magazines, and a rapidly expanding alt-craft culture. Talia Schaffer (Assoc. Prof., Queens) is on the doctoral faculty in English and women’s studies.
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Submitted on: SEP 21, 2011