Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Filth

Dirt, Digust, and Modern Life

2004

William A. Cohen and Ryan Johnson, editors

Filth

What waste reveals about the culture that creates it

This book explores the question of what filth has to do with culture: what critical role the lost, the rejected, the abject, and the dirty play in social management and identity formation.

Contributors: David S. Barnes, Neil Blackadder, Joseph Bristow, Joseph W. Childers, Eileen Cleere, Natalka Freeland, Pamela K. Gilbert, Christopher Hamlin, William Kupinse, Benjamin Lazier, David L. Pike, David Trotter.

For decades I have been wanting a serious comparative study of the idea of dirt, something historical, philosophical, and authoritative. Here it is. I had never imagined anything so complete as Filth in its scope, or anything so profound.

Mary Douglas, author of Purity and Danger

From floating barges of urban refuse to dung-encrusted works of art, from toxic landfills to dirty movies, filth has become a major presence and a point of volatile contention in modern life. This book explores the question of what filth has to do with culture: what critical role the lost, the rejected, the abject, and the dirty play in social management and identity formation. It suggests the ongoing power of culturally mandated categories of exclusion and repression.

Focusing on filth in literary and cultural materials from London, Paris, and their colonial outposts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the essays in Filth, all but one previously unpublished, range over topics as diverse as the building of sewers in nineteenth-century European metropolises, the link between interior design and bourgeois sanitary phobias, fictional representations of laboring women and foreigners as polluting, and relations among disease, disorder, and sexual-racial disharmony.

Filth provides the first sustained consideration, both theoretical and historical, of a subject whose power to horrify, fascinate, and repel is as old as civilization itself.

Contributors: David S. Barnes, U of Pennsylvania; Neil Blackadder, Knox College; Joseph Bristow, U of California, Los Angeles; Joseph W. Childers, U of California, Riverside; Eileen Cleere, Southwestern U; Natalka Freeland, U of California, Irvine; Pamela K. Gilbert, U of Florida; Christopher Hamlin, U of Notre Dame; William Kupinse, U of Puget Sound; Benjamin Lazier, U of Chicago; David L. Pike, American U; David Trotter, U of Cambridge.


Filth

William A. Cohen is associate professor of English at the University of Maryland and the author of Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction.

Ryan Johnson is completing his Ph.D. in the Department of English at Stanford University, where he has served as general editor of the Stanford Humanities Review.

Filth

For decades I have been wanting a serious comparative study of the idea of dirt, something historical, philosophical, and authoritative. Here it is. I had never imagined anything so complete as Filth in its scope, or anything so profound.

Mary Douglas, author of Purity and Danger

This is a beautiful collection of essays on the poignant, all too human, matter of the abject.

Thomas Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley

These thoroughly researched essays treat a number of different forms and notions of filth as manifested in 19th-century Paris and London, including the filth of body waste and decay, verbal and representational filth, and filth as a cultural and racial marker.

Choice

The most literally concerned with contamination. Concerned with the cultural impact of nineteenth-century sewer modernization projects in London.

SEL: Studies in English Literature

Filth includes riveting accounts of cultural and intellectual history, and often usefully seasons new historicist and Foucauldian accounts of filth with a dash of phenomenology, structuralism, or psychoanalysis.

Victorian Studies

Displaying rare depth and coherence, Cohen’s volume gives an excellent, eclectic look at the rich figurality of filth and makes a compelling case for its importance to an understanding of modernism.

Symploke

Filth

Contents

Introduction: Locating Filth William A. Cohen

Part I. Fundamentals of Filth

1. Good and Intimate Filth Christopher Hamlin
2. The New Historicism and the Psychopathology of Everyday Modern Life David Trotter

Part II. Sanitation and the City

3. Sewage Treatments: Vertical Space and Waste in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London David L. Pike
4. Medical Mapping: The Thames, the Body, and Our Mutual Friend Pamela K. Gilbert
5. Confronting Sensory Crisis in the Great Stinks of London and Paris David S. Barnes

Part III. Polluting the Bourgeois

6. Victorian Dust Traps Eileen Cleere
7. “Dirty Pleasure”: Trilby’s Filth Joseph Bristow
8. Merdre!Performing Filth in the Bourgeois Public Sphere Neil Blackadder
9. Foreign Matter: Imperial Filth Joseph W. Childers

Part IV. Dirty Modernism

10. The Dustbins of History: Waste Management in Late-Victorian Utopias Natalka Freeland
11. The Indian Subject of Colonial Hygiene William Kupinse
12. Abject Academy Benjamin Lazier

Contributors

Index