ISBN : 9780199797202
The Comfort of Strangers argues for a new understanding of the relation between literary form and the socially dense environments of modernity. In a period of vast population increase in Britain, literary form imagined and licensed new ways of being with, and getting away from, other people. The generically diverse works that McWeeny calls "the literature of social density" illuminate surprising investments in ephemeral communities, anonymity, and social distance in the age of Victorian sympathy. With chapters on Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Henry James, The Comfort of Strangers discovers a species of Victorian sociality not imagined under J.S. Mill's description in On Liberty of society as a crowd impinging upon the individual: one attuned to the relational possibilities offered by the impersonal intimacy of life among those unknown and the power of weak social ties.
Introduction: The Comfort of Strangers
Chapter 1: Matthew Arnold's Crowd Management
Chapter 2: Losing Interest in George Eliot
Chapter 3: Oscar Wilde's Ephemeral Form
Chapter 4: Henry James's Art of Distance