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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

(p.188) 4 / Feeling at a Loss
The Body of Property

Chad Luck

Fordham University Press

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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