The City Real and the City Imagined in Victorian Manchester

Moore, Sarina Gruver, Department of English, University of Virginia
Chase, Karen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Levenson, Michael, Department of English, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Bluestone, Daniel, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

Though a number of excellent books have been recently published about the Victorian urban lived experience, these books center almost exclusively on London scenes and London texts. But it would be a mistake to view cosmopolitan London as providing the sole, or even the most representative, experience of urban life during the period. Northern and Midland industrial cities grew at exponential rates in population and economic importance throughout the century. Indeed, one North West city, Manchester, was the first industrial city in the world, and by the mid-Victorian period, industrialization and urbanization had created in Manchester a fundamentally different kind of urban space than had previously existed. Manchester, or the "Cottonopolis," was the "shock city of the 1840s, attracting visitors from all countries, forcing to the surface what seemed to be intractable problems of society and government" (Briggs Victorian Cites 56). In architect Wytold Rybczynski's terms, Manchester functioned as an "urban bellwether;" or, a city that "embodied the values of [its] particular epoch" (City Life 149). My dissertation pays careful attention to the vast body of urban discourse produced between 1830 and 1880 in Manchester-travel writing, parliamentary sanitation reports, broadside ballads, short stories, social problem novels, sermons, public letters, reportage, autobiographies, pamphlets, and advertisements-all of which wrestled with the vexing problem of how to live well in the new, industrialized City. This study examines how different kinds of urban discourse imagine and present Victorian Manchester. I also place that imagined Manchester into dialogue with the material context by reading the evidence provided by the Victorian cityscape in the form of iv industrial archeology and the photographic record. By examining these texts in relation to the structures and spaces in which they were written, we can begin to understand the complex interplay between the built environment of Manchester, and the urban writing that sought to depict, explain, justify, and condemn it-in short, the relationship between the city real and the city imagined. Each chapter is organized around one building typology: cotton mills, working-class housing, public parks, and Manchester Town Hall. I argue that urban dwellers sought to ameliorate the disorienting effects of and social problems attendant upon the modern industrial city through articulating a "rhetoric of unity" about these public and social spaces.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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