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The Body of PropertyAntebellum American Fiction and the Phenomenology of Possession$
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Chad Luck

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263004

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263004.001.0001

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Feeling at a Loss:

Feeling at a Loss:

Theft and Affect in George Lippard

Chapter:
(p.188) 4 / Feeling at a Loss
Source:
The Body of Property
Author(s):

Chad Luck

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823263004.003.0005

This chapter argues that the sensationalist “city mystery” novels of George Lippard work to link the affective power of gothic sensationalism to a radical critique of possessive market society. It shows that Lippard’s urban exposés work to induce in his readers a phenomenology of theft, a feeling of what it is like to have property stolen. Adapting Silvan Tomkins’ groundbreaking taxonomy of affect, the chapter demonstrates how Lippard cultivates a form of “theft-distress,” or kleptophobia, specifically through his representation of urban space. His novels invert the standard gothic architecture of enclosure and entrapment in favor of a frightening, and market-generated, permeability and perforation. This affective strategy was particularly compelling for Lippard’s working-class readers, the chapter concludes, because it creatively appropriates the “capitalist-as-thief” imagery so popular with the 1840s labor press and with socialist thinkers like Thomas Skidmore and Pierre Proudhon.

Keywords:   George Lippard, sensationalism, city mystery, urban gothic, property, theft, affect, phenomenology, urban space, working-class

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